President Kennedy once joked that Washington, D.C. is a town of Northern charm and Southern efficiency, but the city has been on the upswing recently. It has always been a strong tourist attraction, with a lively mix of museums and monuments, and Washington has undergone a dramatic renaissance over the last 15 years. Blighted neighborhoods have been reborn with a new sense of identity. While official Washington is on vacation in August (with the President and Congress usually out of town), tourists continue to flock to the capital city. Here are just a few of the many places worth your attention during the convention.
Down a Georgetown alley lies the most popular jazz club in D.C. This supper club has booked some of the best national talent since 1965. During convention week, Latin jazz legend Poncho Sanchez will appear with his band. bluesalley.com
The Washington Monument reopened in 2014 after nearly three years of repairs to reverse damage from a rare earthquake. The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials remain popular, and the Vietnam Memorial has been a draw since it first opened in 1982. The Korean War Memorial, with its depiction of soldiers walking on the battlefield, takes on a particularly eerie glow at night. nps.gov/nama
Anchored by a gorgeous fountain, Dupont Circle is one of D.C.’s most popular neighborhoods with an eclectic array of shops and restaurants. Kramerbooks is popular with the locals for its carefully selected collection
of books and terrific brunch. kramers.com
The Uptown Theater
In an era of endless megaplexes, The 850-seat Uptown is a thriving artifact of the great movie palaces of the past. Its storied movie history includes hosting the premiere of 2001 in 1968 and being one of 32 theaters nationwide to show Star Wars on its opening day in 1977. Washington is a pizza-challenged town, but if you want a quick bite after a movie, visit Vace Italian deli across the street. The onion and plain pizza slices are particularly memorable.
The Esquire Network show Best Bars in America recently featured D.C. for an episode, and two newer establishments stood out. Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Adams Morgan (a short cab ride from the convention hotel) boasts over 2,000 bottles of whiskey and a speakeasy hidden inside the bar. Bluejacket Brewery, which opened in late 2013, is part of a revived Navy Yard neighborhood. The dramatic space is actually part of a former munitions complex. jackrosediningsaloon.com, bluejacketdc.com
For the Kids (of all ages)
The museums of the Smithsonian Institution have long been great places to spend a few hours with children. The Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History are standouts.
Another great choice for young and old alike is the International Spy Museum, the only public museum in the United States dedicated to espionage. spymuseum.org
Alexandria and Mount Vernon
For those who want to venture beyond D.C., Old Town Alexandria is a great choice. King Street is lined with quaint shops and interesting restaurants. The Fish Market has been a fixture in Old Town since the 1970s, and the beautiful nearby waterfront has drawn onlookers for centuries. visitalexandriava.com
A visit to Mount Vernon is well worth the trip. George Washington’s estate, gardens, and farm are beautifully preserved on the banks of the Potomac River. Learn fascinating facts about our first president. www.mountvernon.org