If you’re from the Northeast, you’ve probably experienced a scholastic weekend trip to the nation’s capital, chock full of visits to monuments, brown-bag lunches, less-than-invigorating history lessons and late-night slumber parties in a budget hotel room. If you haven’t been back since, now is the time to revisit D.C.—this time, as an adult who can take advantage of the many cultural movements happening in the land of politicians and cherry blossoms. By all means, partake in the obligatory White House visit, take a snapshot on Honest Abe’s lap and relive that adorable scene from Forrest Gump in the Lincoln Monument reflection pool—but then go enjoy the District’s other treasures. And with new takes on craft cocktails, a stellar culinary scene and an art space gaining international attention, Dupont Circle makes a great home base for exploring them.
One such treasure is the Embassy Row Hotel, situated on, wait for it…Embassy Row in Dupont Circle. Surrounded by edifices housing international dignitaries, the 231-room hotel recently underwent a $15 million renovation that left its exterior ugly—damn historical preservation rules—and its interior and chic roof-top pool stunning. The makeover came courtesy of JN+A architects and interior design firm HVS Design, who reimagined the property using contemporary interiors and bright pops of color with the occasional nod to the ’70s, the decade the hotel opened. Many of the finishing touches pay homage to the District, from a majestic metal sculpture of cherry blossoms to a silhouette wall behind the front desk representing leaders such as Jefferson, Roosevelt and JFK. Iconic local architecture appears on guest room art and accent pillows, and the ambient soundtrack even taps artists with local ties. All in all, the hotel offers a delicate balance of old and new, classic and modern, and, like most things in D.C., Northern sensibility and Southern charm—making it a hotspot for tourists and locals alike.
After you’ve settled into your vacation abode, make your way to downstairs to Station Kitchen & Cocktails for one of the signature bottled cocktails or a stiff drink featuring ingredients like chai caramel candy, chamomile lemongrass syrup and Meyer lemon charcoal. They’re all made onsite under the direction of hunky ex-football player Robert Yealu, director of restaurants at the property. Must-try concoctions include Burlesque & Rye, made with rye, brandy, Campari and a house shrub, and the Violet Beauregard, with vodka, dark chocolate, apple and, naturally, blueberry. The food is not to be missed either—nosh on small-plated delights like Korean caveman pops (Asian-spiced chicken drumsticks), meatball Wellington and, for dessert, bacon lollipops. Read: If you’re on a diet, don’t be.
Get your art buzz on around the corner at the Phillips Collection, the country’s first modern art museum. Founded by wealthy art collector and critic Duncan Phillips in 1921, it’s small in size but boasts works of art by Renoir, Bonnard, O’Keeffe, van Gogh and Monet along with seismic special exhibits such as the recent Man Ray show Human Equations: A Journey from Mathematics to Shakespeare.
Once the creative side of your brain has been properly primed, you’ll be ready to explore one of the world’s leading underground architectural projects. Dupont Underground is the brainchild of architect Julian Hunt, who felt the defunct oculiform public transit station was wasted space that could be better used for art galleries, events, stores and more. He and his managing director, Braulio Agnese, hope to revitalize the abandoned trolley station beneath Dupont Circle as a space for “presenting, producing and promoting cutting-edge arts, architecture, design and creative endeavors,” a vision that’s been described as the below-street-level version of the Manhattan High Line. It’s not open to the public yet, but the hotel’s marketing department is working on guided tours that will allow small groups to experience the project’s progression. It’s a lesson in history-in-the-making that you won’t soon forget.
-No trip to D.C. is complete without a shopping trip in Georgetown. Drool over Euro designs from the likes of Dries Van Noten and Thom Browne at Relish. Fun fact: It’s owned by Nancy Pearlstein, daughter of late Louis Boston founder Murray Pearlstein.
-Satisfy your inner gourmand at Union Kitchen, a food incubator where more than 60 startups share space to create culinary magic.
The Embassy Row Hotel 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. (202-265-1600) embassyrowhotel.com
The Phillips Collection 1600 21st St., Washington, D.C. (202-387-2151) phillipscollection.org
Relish, 3312 Cady’s Alley NW, Washington, D.C. (202-333-5343) relishdc.com
Union Kitchen, 1110 Congress St. NE, Washington, D.C. unionkitchendc.com