RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide to the City

Since RWA will be coming to my neighborhood in July of this year, I thought this local resident’s perspective might help a few of you in making plans for this summer.

Hotels: 

The conference is being held at the Marriott Wardman Park.  If the hotel is too expensive for you or is already booked, there is one good budget option I can recommend.  The Days Inn Connecticut Avenue is just two short Metro stops away and in a very nice (and safe) neighborhood.  Door to door time to the Marriott Wardman Park would probably be about 15 minutes or less – including a five-minute wait for a subway. 

If convenience is most important to you, the Omni Shoreham is quite literally at the conference hotel’s back door.

A quick Google for “budget hotels” turned up a few I know by disreputable sight.  It’s very easy to get sucked in by phrases like “view of the Capitol.”  Proceed with caution.  Some of the most crime-ridden parts of the city have those great views and I’ve always felt sorry for tourists who think they’re signing up for one thing and actually end up with something far different.

Restaurants:

There are plenty of great and sort of affordable restaurants in DC – and, gee, there are just too many for me to list.  I do have two favorites, though:  Lavendou is one Metro stop away from the conference hotel and is a lovely, quiet little French bistro with terrific service.  Café la Ruche is probably one of my favorite restaurants of all time.  Situated beside the C & O Canal in Georgetown, Café La Ruche feels like a real Parisian bistro (really) complete with French servers.  The food is delicious and affordable and the ambience relaxing.  And desert?  It’s justifiably famous.

As for the big deal restaurants, there are a few I can personally recommend: Michele Richard’s Central is a bit out of the way since it’s located on Pennsylvania Avenue (Metro Center subway stop), but everything on the menu is simply fabulous.  Then there’s Café Milano in Georgetown, the place to see and be seen – though I’ve been seen there maybe twice in my whole life.   There’s also Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro (Foggy Bottom Metro) and Sequoia, a beautiful restaurant situated by the Potomac in Georgetown with spectacular waterside views.  Restaurant Nora has been the number one spot for romantic dinners for years now and, if you’re lucky, you just might catch Bill and Hillary there.  It’s located on the edge of Dupont Circle, a neighborhood I lived in for years that will always be close to my heart.

A word of warning:  There is a cluster of three or four generic Italian and French restaurants on Connecticut Avenue directly across from the hotel and my advice is to avoid them at all costs.  A mediocre plate of pasta at one will set you back something like $25 (and I’m talking lunch here) and an equally uninspiring glass of wine runs about $10.  I know they’re convenient, but resist the temptation.  You’ll thank me.

Neighborhoods: 

You’ll want to check out Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Chinatown.  The latter is a relatively newly developed area and, for my money, is turning out to be one of the best spots in town for funky shopping and great food.  I don’t do the club thing anymore, but if you do, this neighborhood is the place to go.

Things to Do:

Shopping:  DC has many great shopping areas, but an easy and quick bet is the neighborhood situated at the Friendship Heights Metro stop four stops away from the hotel.  This is a high end, window-shopping paradise, including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dior, and Barney’s.  Everything is located within a block or two of the Metro stop directly on or near Wisconsin Avenue

Museums:  In addition to the big ones on the National mall, also consider the Spy Museum, dedicated to all things spy; the Newseum, a fascinating museum devoted to the history of the news media; Madame Tussauds; and the new Crime and Punishment Museum (which I have yet to see).

The National Zoo is located just about two blocks from the hotel.  There you will find- in addition to lions and tigers and bears – our adorable, extra special, incredible pandas.  There may be a cub (fingers crossed) and if so mom and baby won’t be out for the public yet, but adorable Tai Shan will be.  In July Tai will have just had his fourth birthday and may soon (sob!) be on his way to China, so don’t miss the chance to see our rambunctious little (okay, not so much anymore) bear.  I’m all about the pandas, obviously, but the Zoo is a wonderful experience and – if you’re lucky – the clouded leopard cubs just born might be on display.

Random Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of Metro.  It is your friend.  It’s easy to use, safe, affordable, goes almost everywhere (except Georgetown), and everybody here uses it all the time.
  • Be prepared for steamy heat.  Legend has it that D.C. was built on a swamp and in July you will believe it.
  • Cabs are readily available in most places in D.C.  Don’t bother calling ahead, just hit the street and hail one. If you’re going to Georgetown, cabs are just about the only practical way to get there and back.

I’m sure I’ll think of more stuff as the conference gets closer.  If anybody else can recommend great restaurants or a good budget hotel, please let us know in the comments section.

-Sandy AAR

 

 

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17 Responses to “RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide to the City”

  1. Jane Granville says:

    I think you covered most of it, Sandy! I would also mention, though, that Friendship Heights does have some bargain shopping– I’m a fan of the Loehmann’s there, as I’ve always been able to find exactly what I’m looking for, and inexpensively too. So if you want to go window shopping at Barney’s and Gucci, you can also stop by Loehmann’s or Filene’s Basement or T. J. Maxx in the same neighborhood.

    I’d also recommend the Phillips Collection, a modern art museum in Dupont Circle. It’s one of my favorite museums (though sadly not a Smithsonian, so you have to pay to get in), with a lot of lesser-known paintings by the modern greats.

    Some fun places to go in Adams Morgan– The Diner, Tryst, and Angles bar. I’ve only been to the first and third, but would recommend both (there aren’t too many bars that have a Scrabble board for you to play!). I’ve always wanted to go to Tryst, which is both a bar and a coffeehouse. On the way there from the metro stop is a great Middle Eastern restaurant, Mama Aisha’s. Since I’m a poor college student, I don’t go to the pricey places– I’ve never spent more than $20 on a meal, I don’t think, in any of these places.

    Some other random restaurants I like: 2 Amys and Cactus Cantina, though both are pretty out-of-the-way (about a mile from the Tenleytown-AU metro stop, on the way to Georgetown and near the National Cathedral).

    Like Sandy said, I’m sure I’ll think of more as time goes on. I haven’t been in DC as long as she has (I’ve lived here for less than two years), but it’s a fun city with a lot to do.

  2. AAR Sandy says:

    I’m a BIG fan of Two Amy’s, Jane and also Cafe Deluxe right in the same neighborhood. And I shop at Filene’s, as well, though I never seem to be too lucky at Loehmann’s. You know they’re adding new shops, right? Sephora and Mac are both coming in and may be open by July.

    Do check out Cafe la Ruche when you’re in Georgetown. They do a great simple grilled chicken (on the side) and Caesar salad combo that is one of my all time favorites. It sounds simple — and it is — but there is something about the way it is prepared that hits all my taste buds.

  3. Jane Granville says:

    I haven’t heard about Sephora and MAC– that will be interesting! They’re located right next to each other in Georgetown; I wonder if they’ll be right together in Friendship Heights too? I’ve never been to Cafe Deluxe, but I was looking at their menu the other day and it looks really good.

    Oh, another small suggestion (slash plug for one of my places of employment)– I know RWA will keep you all busy, but if you do some touristy things at the National Cathedral, stop by the Herb Cottage– it’s a cute little gift shop where you can get herbs/spices, jams, teas, lamps, teapots, and just about any sort of gift you might need.

  4. Lynn Spencer says:

    Jaleo is probably one of my very favorite restaurants in DC (though Cafe la Ruche and some of the Indian restaurants in Georgetown aren’t far behind). Jaleo is a wonderful tapas restaurant and is near the Verizon Center/Gallery Place Metro, if I remember correctly.

    Another good restaurant is Sala Thai on P Street in Dupont Circle. It’s down a side street, so it often takes me a couple tries to find it, but the food is worth it.

    Even though the Metro doesn’t go to Georgetown, it’s not a bad walk from either the Rosslyn or Foggy Bottom(my inner 12 year old loves that name!) Metro stops. I always reward myself with iced tea and a pastry at Patisserie Poupon once I get there.

    I second Jane’s recommendation for National Cathedral. It is absolutely beautiful there. I’d also recommend the Freer and Sackler Galleries. These are part of Smithsonian and so they’re free. While there are some 19th century American paintings mixed in, these galleries primarily hold a really wonderful collection of Asian art. During RWA, the Sackler will also be hosting a special exhibition from the Kremlin of items given to the Tsars by the Ottomans and some of the Middle Eastern rulers.

  5. Susan/DC says:

    There is so much to see and do in DC that it’s hard not to be overwhelmed. In addition to some of the recommendations above, I’d add the restaurant at the Museum of the American Indian. It’s not cheap (lunch can be around $15), but it’s got good, out of the ordinary food because it tries to have authentic Native American dishes (although at times modified for modern tastes). I also love Sabores, a moderately priced Latin tapas restaurant (a less expensive version of Jaleo, which Lynn mentioned), on upper Connecticut Avenue, not too far from the RWA venue (one Metro stop) across from the Uptown Theatre, one of the last big single screen movie theaters.

    For shopping, there’s the U Street district between 14th and 16 Streets NW (visitors need to be careful because the District is in quadrants, and there may be four versions of the same address, differing only by whether it’s NW, NE, SW, or SE). I took a walking tour there last weekend that focused on places of interest related to the Harlem Renaissance, which the tour guide said actually began in Washington — Duke Ellington is from DC, Langston Hughes lived here, etc. The area was buzzing with lots of young people, and the line to get into Ben’s Chili Bowl, always a DC highlight but even more so since Obama ate there, wound around the block. Busboys & Poets is another fun place in the neighborhood, and with a name like that a natural stop for RWA.

    Above all, I love how the different neighborhoods have such different architecture and feel to them. Mt Pleasant was built in the 1910s-1920s as a middle class neighborhood of townhouses. Georgetown is one of the oldest sections of the city and more upper class. Cleveland Park (the neighborhood near the hotel) is full of gorgeous Victorian homes. Capitol Hill has lots of late 19th C townhouses. DC is just a fun place to visit, and you get spoiled because so many of its museums are free.

  6. Nana says:

    How about some love for Old Town Alexandria? Get off the Metro at King Street and walk to the waterfront (maybe a 1/2 hours stroll – but you can turn back any time you want or take the FREE bus!) and you’ll be swimming in antiques shops, boutiques, independent restaurants, and the most extraordinary chocolate shop in the area, King Street Chocolates. It’s very kid-friendly and dog-friendly. The waterfront itself has street performers (a guy who plays water glasses, balloon animal makers, etc) and a park. Most restaurants have outside dining. A wonderful way to spend a safe, interesting evening.

  7. Sandlynn says:

    Just wanted to chime in:

    I live about a block from the Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue, the less expensive hotel Sandy recommended, and, although I’ve never stayed there, I can report that friends of mine have and that it is a safe neighborhood very convenient to the Van Ness/UDC metro stop.

    As for getting to Georgetown, you don’t necessarily have to take a cab. The 30-line metro buses go through Georgetown as well as the Circulator buses, which you can connect with at Farragut North metro station on K Street. Here’s their site with maps and details:
    http://www.dccirculator.com/

    As for food close by the conference, you could try Labanese Taverna, which has pretty good middle east food. This restaurant is literally across Connecticut Avenue from the hotel where the conference is being held.
    http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/restaurants/dc/

    Other good restaurants, although NOT budget:
    Cashion’s Eat Place
    http://www.cashionseatplace.com/

    Corduroy – I had an absolutely superb meal at this place.
    http://www.corduroydc.com/

    Reasonably priced, excellent food:
    Bangkok Joe’s Dumpling Bar and Cafe – on K Street near the Washington Harbor
    in Georgetown.
    http://www.bangkokjoes.com/

    Clyde’s in Georgetown. Everybody in Washington ends up here at least once.
    http://www.clydes.com/main/index.cfm

    Old Ebbitt Grill is a Washington institution, right near the White House,
    but it can also get packed with tourists:
    http://www.ebbitt.com/main/home.cfm?Section=Main&Category=About_the_Ebbitt

    If you want inexpensive, good fast food that’s also a Washington
    institution, you might stop by Ben’s Chili Bowl:
    http://www.benschilibowl.com/ordereze/default.aspx

    Someone above recommended shopping in Friendship Heights, which is right on the metro line. Additionally to the stores recommended, they do have a Stein Mart on the upper level of the Chevy Chase Pavillion. On the lower level, there’s a World Market. Another place to shop is at Pentagon City Mall, also directly on a metro line.

    Even though they are not friendly to romance, one of the premiere independent book stores in the city, known for attracting all manner of the political/literati/media elite discussing their latest book, accompanied by C-SPAN is Politics and Prose. Just take the L2/L4/L1 bus, right outside the hotel going north on Connecticut Avenue. Check out who’s giving an author’s talk that day:
    http://www.politics-prose.com/

    Other places to visit that have not already been mentioned:
    National Geographic Museum
    http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/locations/city/washingtondc/

    United States Botanic Garden (right near the Capitol Bldg. on the Mall)
    http://www.usbg.gov/

    National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum at the Gallery Place Metro
    stop
    http://www.npg.si.edu/
    http://americanart.si.edu/visit/

    Although you may need reservations, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate,
    Hillwood is not far from where the conference is being held:
    http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

    How to get there:
    Directions by Metrorail
    Hillwood is a 20-minute walk from the Van Ness/UDC Metro station on the red Line. From the Metro exit on the east side of Connecticut Avenue, walk south on Connecticut toward Van Ness Auto Care and turn left onto Upton Street. Turn right onto Linnean Avenue. The entrance to the estate will be on the left.

    Directions by Metrobus
    Take the L1 or L2 bus to the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Tilden Street. Walk east toward Rock Creek Park on Tilden. Turn left onto Linnean Avenue. The entrance to the estate will be on the right.

    Finally, if you have a hankering for GELATO! and art, go to the National
    Gallery of Art. The concourse level between the National Gallery East and
    West serves fantastic gelato.
    http://www.nga.gov/

    Espresso & Gelato Bar
    East Building, Concourse Level
    A full espresso bar offers 19 flavors of gelato, grilled panini sandwiches,
    and a selection of fresh pastries and desserts.
    Hours:
    Monday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

  8. Kathy says:

    Several weeks ago we were at a convention at the Mariott Wardman Park Hotel. There is a great little restaurant at the foot of the hill called Open City. Nice variety on the menu and friendly service – reasonable prices. The customers were a good combination of family units and young professionals. My husband and son ate there 4 times!

  9. KBL says:

    I’d also recommend Logan Circle/the 14th Street Corridor, probably more so than Adams Morgan, particularly on weekend evenings. The whole strip in A-Mo is pretty much wall-to-wall drunken college kids on Friday and Saturday nights. Chinatown is good, but you have to separate the wheat from the chaff–lots of chains with gems like Jaleo or Zaytinya’s (Mediterranean tapas) mixed in. Frankly, I prefer Dupont, Logan and Columbia Heights. Cork, in Logan Circle, is a great wine bar/small plates restaurant. Lauriol Plaza, sort of between Dupont and Adams Morgan, serves almost exactly the same menu as Cactus Cantina (same owners) and is much easier to get to without a car. There’s also a Korean BBQ that I haven’t tried but have heard good things about right in the same area.

    The Helix Hotel, in Logan, has a bit of an unusual DC pedigree. It’s now something of a semi-trendy boutique-ish hotel, but it’s the refurbished HoJo where Marion Barry had his “Bitch set me up!” moment.

    Also, though Metro doesn’t go to Georgetown, the Circulator (red bus) does. It’s only $1 and runs from Union Station to Georgetown, mostly along K Street. There are also other routes that run from pretty much right by the convention hotel through A-Mo, Columbia Heights, the U and 14th Street Corridors to McPherson Square (a few blocks from the White House); from the Convention Center down to the SW Waterfront; and another all around the Mall.

    And, finally, for the love of god, whatever you do, please, please, please do not stand on the left hand side of escalators on Metro. Nothing is guaranteed to make locals roll their eyes, sigh impatiently and give you dirty looks more than that, especially during rush hour. Stand on the right, walk on the left and wait for people to get off the train before you get on and everyone is happy.

  10. Jill says:

    I actually live nearby (Maryland) and am wondering if anyone has any advice for baby-sitters? I know it is a long shot, but I’d love suggestions. My husband can take one day off work, not two. Failing that, I might just skip some of the conference or see if my parents are interested in coming in from out of town that weekend.
    Of course I could bring my by then 6 month old, but I have a feeling even if everyone loved him, it wouldn’t be the most productive or professional thing I could do. :-)

  11. jmc says:

    I’ll second the recommendation for Jaleo. And add that Cafe Atlantico, Oya and Zaytinya are pretty good too.

  12. Leigh says:

    Just seeing if I could post Sandlynn’s post here. It didn’t take, and this was posted on the Potpourri board. .

    RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide to the City

    AAR Forum Index -> Romance Potpourri Forum
    View previous topic :: View next topic
    Author Message
    Sandlynn

    Joined: 23 Mar 2007
    Posts: 1128
    Location: Washington, D.C.
    Posted: Sun Apr 12, 2009 7:05 pm Post subject: RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide to the City

    ——————————————————————————–

    Okay. I have tried twice to post a response to this column about the upcoming Romance Writers’ of America conference in Washington, DC this summer and each time nothing has shown up.

    http://www.likesbooks.com/blog/?p=1343

    I thought, at first, that it had to be approved and so I waited. But, other responses have shown up and nothing seems to be wrong or different about my comments, I have no idea why it’s not showing up.

    Since I took the time to seek out URL’s and web sites, I’ll be darned if this isn’t going to be posted so here is my response:

    Just wanted to chime in:

    I live about a block from the Days Inn on Connecticut Avenue, the less expensive hotel Sandy recommended, and, although I’ve never stayed here, I can report that friends of mine have and that it is a safe neighborhood very convenient to the Van Ness/UDC metro stop.

    As for getting to Georgetown, you don’t necessarily have to take a cab. The 30-line metro buses go through Georgetown as well as the Circulator buses, which you can connect with at Farragut North metro station on K Street. Here’s their site with maps and details:
    http://www.dccirculator.com/

    As for food close by the conference, you could try Labanese Taverna, which has pretty good middle east food. This restaurant is literally across
    Connecticut Avenue from the hotel where the conference is being held.
    http://www.lebanesetaverna.com/restaurants/dc/

    Other good restaurants, although NOT budget:
    Cashion’s Eat Place
    http://www.cashionseatplace.com/

    Corduroy – I had an absolutely superb meal at this place.
    http://www.corduroydc.com/

    Reasonably priced, excellent food:
    Bangkok Joe’s Dumpling Bar and Cafe – on K Street near the Washington Harbor in Georgetown.
    http://www.bangkokjoes.com/

    Clyde’s in Georgetown. Everybody in Washington ends up here at least once.
    http://www.clydes.com/main/index.cfm

    Old Ebbitt Grill is a Washington institution, right near the White House,
    but it can also get packed with tourists:
    http://www.ebbitt.com/main/home.cfm?Section=Main&Category=About_the_Ebbitt

    If you want inexpensive, good fast food that’s also a Washington
    institution, you might stop by Ben’s Chili Bowl:
    http://www.benschilibowl.com/ordereze/default.aspx

    Someone above recommended shopping in Friendship Heights, which is right on the metro line. Additionally to the stores recommended, they do have a Stein Mart on the upper level of the Chevy Chase Pavillion. On the lower level, there’s a World Market. Another place to shop is at Pentagon City Mall, also directly on a metro line.

    Even though they are not friendly to romance, one of the premiere independent book stores in the city, known for attracting all manner of the political/literati/media elite discussing their latest book, accompanied by C-SPAN is Politics and Prose. Just take the L2/L4/L1 bus, right outside the hotel going north on Connecticut Avenue. Check out who’s giving an author’s talk that day:
    http://www.politics-prose.com/

    Other places to visit that have not already been mentioned:
    National Geographic Museum
    http://events.nationalgeographic.com/events/locations/city/washingtondc/

    United States Botanic Garden (right near the Capitol Bldg. on the Mall)
    http://www.usbg.gov/

    National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum at the Gallery Place Metro
    stop:
    http://www.npg.si.edu/
    http://americanart.si.edu/visit/

    Although you may need reservations, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate,
    Hillwood is not far from where the conference is being held:
    http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

    How to get there:
    Directions by Metrorail:
    Hillwood is a 20-minute walk from the Van Ness/UDC Metro station on the Red Line. From the Metro exit on the east side of Connecticut Avenue, walk south on Connecticut toward Van Ness Auto Care and turn left onto Upton Street. Turn right onto Linnean Avenue. The entrance to the estate will be on the left.

    Directions by Metrobus
    Take the L1 or L2 bus to the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Tilden Street. Walk east toward Rock Creek Park on Tilden. Turn left onto Linnean Avenue. The entrance to the estate will be on the right.

    Finally, if you have a hankering for GELATO! and art, go to the National
    Gallery of Art. The concourse level between the National Gallery East and
    West serves fantastic gelato.
    http://www.nga.gov/

    Espresso & Gelato Bar
    East Building, Concourse Level
    A full espresso bar offers 19 flavors of gelato, grilled panini sandwiches,
    and a selection of fresh pastries and desserts.
    Hours:
    Monday–Saturday, 10:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
    Sunday, 11:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
    _________________
    RIP, Socks, the First Cat

    Back to top

  13. Leigh says:

    Sandlynn has a great post about place to stay, visit, and eat:

    http://aarboards.com/viewtopic.php?t=5008

  14. SandyH says:

    I second the recommendation for the Phillips Art Museum. It is a gem. Marcel’s is a great restaurant in Georgetown – 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue. Also the Sea Catch Restaurant at 1054 31st is on the canal. I have also eaten at Poste.

  15. [...] All About Romance’s News & Commentary Blog » Blog Archive » RWA D.C.: An Insider’s Guide …. [...]

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