DC is no longer the stuffy political town it once was; a new Washington has emerged– one that not only keeps up with trends but sets them. This change from stodgy to adventurous is apparent most obviously in Washington’s burgeoning foodie scene. Here are my favorite places to eat when I’m in the city!
While DC is best-known for its politics, it also has an art scene that is worth talking about! There are a number of concert venues that cater to every possible interest, outdoor music experiences, and quirky theaters for cinephiles. Check out my recs for the best places to enjoy the arts in Washington DC! 🙂
This new concert venue on at The Wharf is a must-visit for a few reasons: 1) they have an amazing lineup, 2) it’s close to a bunch of great restaurants, and 3) it’s right on the water! I went to see The Head and The Heart there this spring and absolutely loved it. Before the show, grab dinner or drinks at somewhere nearby like Hank’s Oyster Bar or Mi Vida.
The Kennedy Center
The Kennedy Center is definitely the most famous concert location in DC, and for good reason. I never caught a show here while I lived in DC, but it’s on my bucket list….maybe I’ll go when I’m back in DC for the holidays? 🙂 There are tons of famous ballets and Broadway shows that come through here which can be pretty pricey, but there are also free shows at the Millenium Stage every day at 6pm if you’re on a budget!
Air Force Memorial Concert
Seeing an outdoor concert at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington is a quintessential DC summer activity. The memorial itself is breathtaking (I mean look at this place!), and the music is amazing, too. Check out the schedule here to see when the next concert is.
If you passed this place on the street during the daytime, you’d have no idea that it’s a concert venue. The garage door entrance is pretty unassuming, making it the perfect place for all the *hip* indie bands to perform when they come through DC. If Black Cat were a playlist, it would be called Deep Cuts. If I look at their lineup on any given day, I am lucky if I know even 2 of the bands. I never made it to a show here, but it was always on my list. Do yourself a favor and check this place out!
I love the 9:30 Club. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s the perfect place to catch a show in the city. The first concert I saw here was Switchfoot in 9th grade and I’ll never forget it (yes, I still listen to Switchfoot!). I’ve also seen The Wombats and Ren Weaver here and enjoyed both immensely. My advice is to go early and head upstairs– there’s a little bar where you can grab a drink and of course their famous 9:30 cupcakes from Buzz Bakeshop!
Meridian Hill Drum Circle
This Sunday tradition has been going on for literally decades and is like nothing else in Washington. People of all backgrounds and walks of life gather in Meridian Hill Park to drum, dance, and be in community together. If you’re interested in joining the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your drum. Otherwise just show up and soak in the good vibes!
Marine Silent Drill Parade
Summer Friday nights are a big deal on Barracks Row. The entire strip of stores and restaurants hums with activity as the community prepares for the weekly Marine Corps Silent Drill Parade. People come from all over the country to see this– how lucky is DC to have it right here! This is definitely an event you’ll want to dress nice for, so go ahead and make an evening of it with dinner at one of the nearby restaurants like Rose’s Luxury or Chiko.
E Street Cinema
This is probably my favorite movie theater in the city. They show some blockbuster hits here, but their specialty is definitely lesser-known titles. Think movies with Oscar-potential that wouldn’t play at Regal Cinemas just up the street. In addition to playing current movies, E Street Cinema also hosts special film events. I went to their Japanese Film Festival in honor of the cherry blossom festival this spring and loved it.
If E Street Cinema is the Indie theater, Miracle is definitely the throwback. This small, intimate location on Barracks Row only shows 4-5 movies at a time, but they’re definitely not ones found in other theaters. I’ve walked past their doors before and seen signs for Harry Potter night, Rom Com throwbacks for Valentine’s Day, and even an Alfred Hitchcock Friday series for the month of October. Not only do they show great movies– they also have the cutest interior ever! It’s what I imagine old movie theaters used to look like “back in the day.” Definitely one of my favorite places to catch a movie in the city!
If there is one thing my friends know about me, it’s that I love exploring cities. And eating. And Instagramming. This means I am extra AF, but it also means that I have a way of finding the tastiest, cutest, most *hip* places wherever I go. Including Washington DC, which was my home for the last year. Since I am leaving the city (moving to San Diego! Yay!), I decided to create a repository of my favorite spots in DC.
To make the giant list of recommendations more palatable, it’s going to be split up by category: there will be a post on coffee, one on food, another one on the arts, one dedicated to the quintessential *DC* things to do, one for my favorite views in the city, and lastly one for day/weekend trips near the city. Behold the first installment of this mini-series: coffee in DC!
Slipstream: I love this place because the baristas are really friendly and the vibe is charming and relaxed. One cool thing they do is have both coffee and cocktails, so it’s very versatile and also open later than most coffee shops! They also have baked goods and hearty dishes in case you’re hungry. I’ve only been to the Navy Yard location, but they also have one near Logan Circle I think.
Tryst: another late night coffee option! They always give you a little animal cracker with your hot drinks which I find to be super adorable. Definitely an excellent place to bring your laptop and work during the day or go with friends in the evening.
Big Bear Cafe: Ok so I never made it to this place, but it was always on my list. The name is super cute, and I heard it was a very homey, neighborhood kind of place. There is supposedly some nice outdoor seating, and I think they cater too. I’m pretty sure they don’t have WiFi, so don’t plan on getting work done online if you go here– just relax and unwind!
Maketto: I wrote about this place in an earlier post because I seriously love it so much. I’ve never been anywhere like it…it’s part street fashion shop, part dim sum, and part coffee shop! Their chai lattes and almond croissants are fantastic, and their dishware is pretty cute too. It’s a popular place though so make sure you go early in the morning to avoid the crowds if you’re set on getting a table!
The Wydown: This small little coffee shop is awesome. I’m partial to their location on 14th Street NW for its open-air vibes, but their store on H Street is nice too. Their iced chai lattes are great, and so are their other menu offerings! They have some interesting teas that I’ve never seen anywhere else like Moroccan mint. One of the coolest things about this coffee shop is its art: they have these cool abstract canvases on the wall that are painted with coffee!
Grace Street Coffee: This Georgetown coffee shop is tucked away down a side street off the main M Street drag, but it is still usually pretty busy! The store is in a shared space with a juice shop and a sandwich joint, making it a great place to get coffee and something else. Their vanilla lattes are to die for, and they have the cutest mugs ever. Love this place!
Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse: This is probably my favorite place on the list for a few reasons: 1) they have a million options, including some really cool ones like a honey lavender latte and frozen hot chocolate, 2) a really cool industrial vibe including huuuge windows, 3) live music in the evenings, 4) lots of seating options, and 5) THE BEST VANILLA CHAI IN THE CITY. Can you tell I love vanilla flavored things? haha 🙂
Little Pearl: This place opened up near my old house this year, and it has already become super popular! That might have something to do with the fact that it’s owned by the same people who started Rose’s Luxury and Pineapple and Pearls, two Michelin star restaurants down the road. The vibe is a little too pretentious for me (definitely a see and be seen kind of place), but their food and drinks are really delicious. My favorites are the London Fog latte, chai latte, and of course their potato doughnuts!
The Cup We All Race 4: The definition of a *hip* coffee shop. Located inside the super popular Line Hotel in Adams Morgan, The Cup We All Race 4 is probably the coolest cafe on this list. Once your order at the counter, take your food and drink and go sit in the main lobby area to soak up the ambiance 🙂 Lots of people bring their laptops here and work, but it’s also a great place to chill with friends.
Colada Shop: This Cuban-inspired coffee joint on 14th Street is also seriously cool. It has a super cute interior (including a giant window that opens up in the summer that gives the place an airy feel), fast service, and the most fantastic food and drinks ever. Like you seriously can’t go wrong with anything on the menu!
Bluestone Lane: This coffee shop chain originally comes from Australia, and I am so glad it has come to the US because I am so into Australian/New Zealand coffee culture omg. Maybe I’ll do a separate post on that sometime? Reasons I love Bluestone Lane: 1) lots of healthy options and 2) super cute vibes. I have only been to their West End location (conveniently attached to the public library!), but I know they have at least one other location in Georgetown 🙂
La Colombe: This Philly coffee chain is one of the best things that DC has imported. These people are serious about their coffee and have some delicious brews. They also have the cutest cups/plates and know how to decorate a place well! I like the spacious 14th Street location the best because it has awesome windows and the cutest sign inside, but the Chinatown and Blagden Alley locations are also great 🙂
Vigilante: Of all the places on this list, Vigilante is the one I have been visiting the longest. It has one location in Hyattsville with another coming to College Park soon. I like that they have lots of options here and super chill vibes. One time when I was here studying I got invited to participate in a cupping, which is basically like a wine tasting but for coffee. So fun! The staff is so helpful and friendly, and their baked goods are really tasty. I like that they also offer acai bowls if you’re looking for something more refreshing. I know it’s a bit of a hike out of the city, but this place is worth it.
There you have it– my favorite coffee shops in the city! Did I miss any of your favorite spots? Tell me in the comments below! And keep your eye out for the next part of the “Rachel’s Guide to Washington” series coming soon 🙂