The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

A Cynics Guide to DC

Certain things must simply be done; after all you don’t go backpacking in Europe and not go through Paris.  Wait, I did that, bad example.  Anyway, when you hit the nations capitol there is a certain amount of nationalist propaganda you have to be ready to absorb and this will come at you in various waves.  What is most important is how you handle the flurry of Red, White & Blue coming your way yet still manage to have a good time. 

Of course you want to see the White House; the desire is understandable and hopefully 1600 Penn won’t disappoint.  The key is in how you see it.  Normally you walk through Jackson Square and get your picture standing in front.  Instead go to the roof of the Hotel Washington, have a drink, get a great cityscape and pretend you can spot snipers on the White House roof.  Whatever you do make sure there is no consumption of the vile drivel they slap on plates and serve as food.  It is bad, overpriced and will remind of you of strange concoctions Eastern Europeans were forced to eat during the Cold War. 

So you’ve knocked out the big one and next up is the Capitol.  If you plan in advance, you can get a tour from an intern in your congressman or senators office.  If you don’t plan, you can go to Cap Lounge on a Tuesday night, find a cute intern, buy a beer or two and hopefully get a tour the old fashioned way.  Either way, the tours are cool.  The Capitol building has a lot of old secrets and there is an underground train that runs from the offices to the Capitol building kids love (as do 26 year old bloggers).  If a tour isn’t in the cards, I love walking around the Capitol at night.  Majestically lit, the gleaming white against the black sky behind it; really is quite a sight. 

Now the obligations are out of the way, time to open it up a little bit.  Hit some museums, they are free and everyone needs a dinosaur t-shirt.  My favorites in no particular order are American History, Natural History and Air and Space.  There should be something for everyone; it makes a nice afternoon strolling on the mall museum hopping. 

Monuments abound in this town with the obscure French generals lining Embassy Row to the massive Washington Monument in the middle of the mall.  TJ’s memorial offers the most natural beauty, sitting on the water; and the new WWII memorial does it for me.  The FDR is also tremendous, and a little off the beaten path.  Expect all these areas to be flocked with school trips, people with fanny packs, and those cruel parents who actually keep there kids on leashes

At this point you’re wondering when I offer something the tour books don’t.  Here it comes.  Go to a concert.  DC, for all its pretension, has a live independent rock scene and its zenith is the 930 club.  Doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of the band or not; go.  The acoustics are awesome, venue small yet non suffocating, and there is a bouncer who took 3 fake id’s from me in the span of 18 months. Other good venues include Black Cat and DC9.   

Next up is the one true unifying force DC has; the Washington Redskins.  In a city that is divided politically, racially, economically and by those who like House (I am staunchly anti) the Skins provide an opportunity for everybody to rally around the home team.  Tickets are expensive and undoubtedly you will hit traffic and encounter some obnoxious Cowboy fans, but the experience at the game is second to none.  Lobbyists seated next to plumbers, black next to white, all in raucous support of the Burgundy and Gold.  Practice the words to Hail to the Redskins and get ready to scream. 

Now you have seen some sights and wrecked some eardrums, you’re looking for a cold beer.  If your a d-bag pop that collar and hit Georgetown.  For the aging frat boys go rip some jaeger bombs in either midtown or Adams Morgan.  Im partial to the Hill and H street bars, mainly because I can walk home without having to fistfight any cab drivers.  My list includes The Pug and Cap Lounge(remember the interns).  Whatever you do, don’t ask for local beer, there isn’t one, and don’t go to a chain bar.  If they have the bar in your hometown, it doesn’t mean it would be cool to stop into the DC version.  Sadly if you’re into that you probably booked a hotel in Crystal City too.  Order Budweiser and shoot GM, you might fool a bartender into a free drink.  Good dining spots include Belga Cafe for brunch, sandwiches at Jetties, and a ton of good restaurants for dinner. Washingtonian does a great job of keeping up with the local restaurant scene.

Get some crabs if you can, real deal Chesapeake blue crabs.  Best July through October; any other time crabs are probably coming from Louisiana.  I recommend Cantlers in Annapolis or if you want to stay closer Bethesda Crab House.  You should get sloppy while eating crabs, so don’t wear your Sunday best. 

My final stop is The Awakening located at the end of Hains Point;  a series of statues depicting a giant man crawling his way out of the earth.  Some of my fondest memories as a kid were running around and playing on the various body parts shooting from the ground (get your mind out of the gutter, it’s not like that).  Hains Point offers some golf as well, but the best and worst DC course is Lansgton.  Located across the street from RFK stadium, Langston is a historic golf course as well as the reason the Skins moved to MD.  Play the back 9 if you can, and bring your driver, you will have to carry the Anacostia River twice.  This is urban golf in all its dilapidated glory; Langston probably makes Bobby Jones roll in his grave. 

There are a thousand other things to see and do, the DCist does a good job keeping up with festivals and street fairs.  Best times of year are spring and fall; summer can get brutally hot and humid.  So come, explore, buy a copy of Street Sense and get a Ben’s Chili Bowl half smoke.  Just make sure you don’t stand on the left side of the Metro escalator.


3 Responses to “A Cynics Guide to DC”

  1. Aww, man. Am I the only one leaving comments on the blogs?

    Anyway, I had to comment on this:

    “If a tour isn’t in the cards, I love walking around the Capitol at night. Majestically lit, the gleaming white against the black sky behind it; really is quite a sight.”

    Simply beautiful. I even read this aloud to my boss, which prompted her to go on and on about how truly lovely The National Mall is at night. I hope you plan on submitting this stuff somewhere. This looks like a Visitor’s Guide to DC piece one would read in Washingtonian Magazine or the Outlook section of the Post.

    Gah, it’s always all about JP, isn’t it? Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Blah, blah, blah fishcakes 🙂

    Seriously man, leave a comment on mine, even if you don’t like post. That way I will feel less like a stalker.

  2. As a new DC-er or whatever you call it, I really appreciate your post. I’ll have to visit some of the spots you mentioned. The club scene is exciting, but H20, K Steet Lounge, Love, Ozio’s, etc. are all getting old for me. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  3. […] A Cynics Guide to DC Certain things must simply be done; after all you don’t go backpacking in Europe and not go through Paris. Wait, I did that, bad example. Anyway, when you hit the nations capitol there is a certain amount of nationalist propaganda you … […]

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