Discover More, Washington DC in Washington, DC, USA
We sent Abbie out with a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Washington DC to get her perspective on what it means to use a travel guide in her hometown.
Even though DC has no skyline to speak of, it’s still an incredibly beautiful city once you are inside it. Awash in history, the capital of the United States gets a generous share of both American and foreign tourists throughout the year. Fortunately, many of the city’s biggest and most famous attractions are free and easily accessible, which encourages locals to enjoy them frequently, too. A livable city that mixes business and pleasure in a most convenient way (it’s nice to be able to take your lunch break at the Museum of American Art when it is across the street from your office!), I think DC manages to strike a good balance that can be difficult for cities and urban areas to achieve.
Place you live:
Can you sum up the people of Washington DC?
Perhaps because of the ratio of politicians and lawyers to the rest of us, we’re generally an informed population. Sometimes we can focus too much on work, but we also appreciate good food, good art, and the outdoors, so we like a city that allows us to both work hard and play hard. DC is also an incredibly diverse city thanks to our large immigrant population as well as diplomats, ambassadors, and other political players that bring some international culture to the city.
What was the experience like looking through a DK Eyewitness Travel Guidebook for your own local city?
It was an interesting combination of both familiarity and newness. I am familiar with almost all of the sights, but I definitely learned a few things from reading the brief histories the guide offered about some things!
Did you find anything new or inspiring about your city in the book?
Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown — what a green-leafed hidden treasure! Also, I thought I knew about all of the museums in DC, but the Octagon Museum on New York Ave NW was new to me!
How did the guidebook influence the photos you went out to take of your city?
While the main attractions are certainly worth photographing — like the Lincoln Memorial and the White House — I also wanted to take this opportunity to show that DC has much more to offer than what is commonly included in a travel guide. Quiet, tree-lined streets in Capitol Hill with beautiful, historic brick townhomes; big, quiet green spaces like Rock Creek Park, where you can sometimes see deer; and wonderful walkable neighborhoods that offer a great quality of life.
Tell us about the photos you shot for this project?
I wanted to show DC as a livable city, not just a place to go to gawk at monuments and march through museums. I also wanted to highlight its architecture; I’m particularly drawn to symmetry and lines, and DC has a lot of that.
I’m a writer and editor.
Describe a perfect day in Washington DC?
First, I’d take a long bike ride up through Rock Creek Park; large sections of it are closed to vehicles on the weekends, so that’s a great time to ride there. After having earned it, I’d have a big breakfast at Ted’s Bulletin in Eastern Market. Their specialties are “adult” (alcoholic) milkshakes and homemade poptarts. The gingerbread one (a seasonal offering) is my favorite. Across Pennsylvania Avenue is the market itself, as well as Capitol Hill Books, my favorite used bookstore.
On my way back toward Northwest, I’d stop through the National Portrait Gallery: I think it’s the best museum in DC. I might take a tour of the third floor, where the most compelling portraits are, or just relax in the light-filled atrium — the perfect place to take a quiet moment to enjoy a chat with a friend.
Likely in need of a snack, I’d head to Tryst in Adams Morgan. It’s a coffee shop with excellent atmosphere: mismatched couches, chairs, and tables, regular live music, and huge roll-up doors along the wall that turn the outdoor seating area into a seamless extension of the entire place — a true sidewalk cafe and a great spot to work on your laptop or catch up on a book. After a smoothie, or maybe the cornbread waffle bites, I might finish the afternoon (or start the evening) on my front porch in Columbia Heights, which faces west, often offering a bit of a view of the sunset.
If I’ve thought ahead, I’ve made reservations for dinner at Thai X-ing in Shaw — arguably the best Thai restaurant in DC. There is a different set menu each night of the week, including two vegetarian nights per week. It’s in a converted rowhouse, and space is limited (which is why they are reservation-only). With unique seating like couches and armchairs, the restaurant has a homey atmosphere, and the food is very traditional, very abundant, and very good. Oh, and the best part: you bring your own alcohol, so come with a bottle of wine… or two!
What do you love about Washington DC?
Its size. DC is big enough to hold many different and distinct neighborhoods, but it’s small enough to navigate relatively easily. Nothing is ever more than a bike ride away.
What do you dislike?
Its reputation. I wish DC would make the news more often for something other than gridlocked politicians.
What would be surprising about this place to an outsider?
Probably how much of an arts scene we have. In addition to the incredible art housed in our museums, DC does a great job of highlighting local artists. We have a lot of community art spaces around the city that always have exhibits featuring local artists, and many of them set up booths at Eastern Market on the weekends, or during one of our many street fairs throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
If your city was a person or character who would it be?
Someone who is misunderstood as being geeky or nerdy, but can really be quite cool and fun.
What was your impression of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guidebook?
I liked the sample itineraries — for all types of travelers, from solo to families — at the beginning of the guide. I also loved the drawings and artist depictions of popular sights — they are beautiful, informative, and really fun to see, especially for those buildings you might not be able to go inside during a trip to DC, like the White House (which is often closed to visitors with little notice) or the Washington Monument (which has been undergoing renovations for a while). The pull-out street map and Metro map in the back are also really nice!