By Bill Malcolm*
Image Credit: Unsplash
Who said gay bars are dead? D.C. has no less than 5 new bars, with more coming. I sampled a few on my recent visit to the DMV. Plus, I also checked out the Union Market food hall, walked with the Front Runners up beautiful Stone Creek Park, and went to the Sunday farmers market in Dupont Circle. I worked out at the new Gold's Gym on Connecticut Avenue as well.
And of course, I toured the Capitol and watched the Senate in action.
Finally, I went to the African American History Museum.
You cannot beat an off-season visit to D.C. The crowds of school kids are gone, the museums are quieter, and there’s just so much to do.
WHAT TO DO
Image Credit: Destination DC
Walk up Rock Creek Park at 9:30 am on Saturdays to the DC Zoo with the DC Front Runners (or run at 10 a.m.). The DC Frontrunners also meet Tuesdays at Union Station. They just won the best D.C. sports organization award from the Washington Blade. In addition to sports activities, they also have happy hours, brunches, and other fun group events. Everyone is welcome.
Take an afternoon to explore the African American History Museum. Start at the ground floor and work your way up while learning about the history of African Americans in the U.S.
Tickets are free, but you must make a reservation in advance. And allow plenty of time there, including for the café.
Other Smithsonian Museums include the nearby Natural History Museum and American History Museum. My favorite is the Botanical Garden near the Capitol. The National Portrait Gallery is another favorite. Be sure to check out the Presidential Portrait Gallery there. It’s near the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro. Near that is the Building Museum, an often overlooked favorite. All of the Smithsonian complex is free and quiet during the winter.
Work out at the new Gold's Gym on Connecticut Avenue. Just US$21 for a 24-hour pass.
Enjoy the 30 different food options at the fabulous Union Market (Metro: Gaudulet) in “NoMa” (north of Mass Avenue). Try the Korean tacos. Then take a hike on the new Metropolitan Branch Trail. Stop by for a beer at the Red Bear Brewing Co.
Head to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sundays year-round. Enjoy the apple cider and empanadas. And be sure to grab a cup of the local Zeke’s Coffee.
Tour the Capitol. I saw Illinois U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth on the Senate Floor and stopped by to see Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin. Enter through the Capitol Visitor’s Center.
Image Credit: tedeytan/Creative Commons
A new bar, The Little Gay Pub (1100 P Street NW), is close to the M Street NW area and features food and drinks. It’s the new hangout in the Logan Circle neighborhood.
The new Shakers Bar (2014 9th St NW) in the Shaw District is a sports bar with a fun patio. It’s quite popular and owned by the same folks as the Dirty Goose (913 U Street NW).
Drink specials are back at both the Number 9 (two for one before 7 p.m.) and Trade (half off wine, generous sized mixed drink at regular price before 8 p.m.). Number 9 (1435 P Street NW) has fantastic service, and Trade (1410 14th Street NW) has a great patio. The Green Lantern (1335 Green Court NW) is another option for reasonable drink prices and dancing.
Kiki at 915 U Street NW is another fun option in Shaw.
Bunker (2001 14th Street NW) is the new go to dance bar. Free cover if you get there early. It’s a basement location also on U Street.
For more information check out the Best of D.C. in the Washington Blade or go to https://www.metroweekly.com/nightlife/directory/.
GETTING THERE / GETTING AROUND
Take the Metro from Reagan Airport (DCA). Buy a pass to get around the District. You can walk everywhere. You can also fly into Dulles Airport (IAD) and take the new Silver Line Metro into the District.
Baltimore (BWI) is another option, and you can catch the MARC train or Amtrak (including the high speed rail, Acela) into the District.
WHERE TO STAY
I always stay at the Comfort Inn (M Street and 13th Street NW) that is closest to the 14th Street NW corridor, which is full of shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s near the historic Logan Circle area in Northwest. Unlike many D.C. hotels, the rates are very reasonable and there are no annoying surprise resort fees like some hotels now impose.The Comfort Inn also has a washer and dryer so you can pack light on longer trips. And a word of warning: the COVID-era bargains are gone, and D.C. hotel rates are back to their exorbitant levels during the week. So shop around or come off season.
Other great options include the Washington Plaza, also in the Thomas Circle-Logan Circle neighborhood, and the Tabard Inn. But always check to see if there are any surprise fees or charges before booking.
This trip I also stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill which was nice but not close to anything save for the Capitol. However, the service was top notch, and I liked the gym. The rooms were quiet and clean.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT
Image Credit: John Brighenti/Creative Commons
Pick up some Route 11 Potato Chips at Streets Market, 1224 Mass Avenue NW, which also features a lot of unique and delicious deli items. There are Streets Markets all over D.C.
Bindaas Bowls and Rolls (415 7th Street NW) has great fast casual Indian. Try the salmon with saffron rice.
Try the shrimp at Baan Siam (425 I Street NW) which has great Thai food.
Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street is a D.C. original. Great after a few drinks at one of the many U Street bars.
For more information
The two local publications are The Washington Blade and Metro Weekly although the former is the only one still in print and comes out every Friday.
You cannot beat an off season visit to the very LGBTQ+ nation’s capital. It’s very walkable and a lot of fun.
*Bill Malcolm is America’s only syndicated value travel writer for LGBTQ+ publications. He resides in Indianapolis as a teleworker but works for a D.C. based non-profit.
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