By Bill Malcolm
It’s always a great time to visit or revisit Washington, D.C., or DMV as the locals call it (the District, Maryland, and Virginia). Spring is about to arrive which of course means cherry blossoms. There’s so much to do—and much of it free.
WHAT TO DO
Smithsonian museums are all free and include:
The United States Botanical Garden (100 Maryland Avenue SW) has a great orchid display and an outdoors area that highlights the plants of the mid-Atlantic region. The Conservatory also has displays including world deserts and rare and endangered plants.
Across the street is the National Museum of the American Indian. Try the Northwest herb salmon in the Café. Learn about treaties between the U.S. and American Indian nations, the great Inka road, the native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region, and more. The new National Native American Veterans Memorial opens soon.
Image credit: Destination DC
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is another must (Constitution Avenue between 14th and 15th). Reservations required on weekends. Learn about Nat Turner’s bible, and Harriet Tubman’s hymnal. See a slave cabin from a South Carolina plantation, a guard tower from the Angola prison, and Michael Jackson’s fedora.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery (8th and F Street NW) currently features special exhibits including:
- Storied Women of the Civil War Era
- One Life (Una Vida): Marian Anderson
- Picturing the American Buffalo
- Chura Obata: American Modern
- The Struggle for Justice
Meet the locals for a run or walk at DC Frontrunners. They meet Saturdays for a run or walk up Rock Park to the Zoo. Or bring your swim suit and swim with the DCAC masters swimmers.
It’s two-for-one happy hour at the always-packed Number Nine (1435 P Street NW) until 9 p.m. every day. The nearby Trade on 14th Street (1401 14th Street) is also a lot of fun. They had a drag performer the night I was there. The Green Lantern (1305 Green Ct NW) also has special events.
WHERE TO EAT
Sweetgreen is my favorite fast casual restaurant. There’s one on P Street near 14th. (1461 P Street) Try the fish taco salad. Compass Coffee across from the Verizon Center offers great coffee and more. They have a few other locations around town. The Streets Market at 1224 Massachusetts Avenue (near the Comfort Inn) has great food and libations to go.
Image credit: Destination DC
WHERE TO STAY
I always stay at the Comfort Inn on 13th Street (1201 13th Street NW), which has great rates and is handy to the nightlife. Ask manager David Brooks for a special association rate. The rooms ending in 11 are the quietest while those ending in 03 have the best views.
The nearby Washington Plaza Hotel is also affordable and close to the action. My conference was at the Renaissance at 999 9th Street, which is very nice as well. The new fashionable outdoor upscale mall is across the street as is the new Conrad Hotel.
I flew into Baltimore airport (BWI) and hopped on the MARC train to D.C. It’s a bit of a hike. Returning I took American out of Reagan Airport (DCA)—just a 20-minute Metro from D.C.
D.C. has a great subway system, the Metro. The Circulator buses are also very handy. In any event, you will not need nor want a car for your trip.
The Washington Blade, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, is your guide to what’s going on in the area. (washingtonblade.com). They also have an LA edition. Pick up a copy Friday around town or read them online. Metro Weekly also has ideas for nightlife. (metroweekly.com)
D.C. is arguably one of the gayest cities in America if not the world. The guys and gals are hot so the people watching alone is compelling. You may even run into a famous politician or one of their staffers. It is also one of the most walkable and transit-friendly cities. Hotels are expensive if there is a convention in town or during the Cherry Blossom Festival (as well as during the week). Otherwise you can usually find a deal.
Bill Malcolm’s syndicated LGBTQ+ value travel column appears in publications and online from North Carolina to California. He does this is a hobby. His full-time job is with a non-profit in D.C. He lives in Indianapolis. He received no compensation of any kind for this visit.
Featured image credit: Destination DC