difficult dc tourist
August 9, 2005 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in DC from 9/9-9/18. The standard museums aren't my thing. What else can you suggest? Things I like: food . unfine art . quirky shopping . rare films . city secrets . roof gardens . classical music . independent bookshops.
posted by cior to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rare Films :
AFI Silver in Silver Springs, MD. (short metro ride, red line);
E Street Cinema which is part of the Landmark chain, specializing in art house, limited release films. 555 11th Street NW (entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Street) (202) 452-7672;

Food :
Washingtonian guide to restaurants along with their quick guide to the 100 best restaurants in the area.

Independant Book shops :
Bonifant Books, 11240 Georgia Ave., Wheaton; 301-946-1526;
Second Story Books, 2000 P St., NW, 202-659-8884;
Olsson’s Books and Records, a local chain with outlets all over the city and suburbs. Even one in National Airport.
Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-364-1919;

More later, maybe.
posted by crunchland at 7:14 AM on August 9, 2005

Hang out in Dupont and Adams Morgan. Dupont is metro accessable but it's not a bad walk to AM from Dupont.

Will you have a car?
posted by Dagobert at 7:14 AM on August 9, 2005

I was going to start a thread about this today too, but, I'm going to piggy back on this question instead. I'm going to be passing through D.C. on Friday night and I'm looking for a good restuarant in the District or in NOVA where I can meet up with some old friends. Good food, drink, and moderate prices are what we are looking for.
posted by trbrts at 7:44 AM on August 9, 2005

The Renwick, Museum of American Craft - some fine "unfine" art. Check out the life size Sail Fish made entirely from game pieces (dice, poker chips etc.) and cheap plastic doo-dahs.
posted by leafwoman at 7:56 AM on August 9, 2005

The Sunday drag brunch - a decent buffet and erzatz Whitney Houstons serenading you - at Perry's in Adams Morgan is one of the only fun things to do in DC. They also have a marvelous roof garden for drinks or the aforementioned brunch if it's not too hot.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:00 AM on August 9, 2005

trbrts - try Cashion's.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:01 AM on August 9, 2005

Response by poster: I'll have access car and a few good friends by my side.
posted by cior at 8:03 AM on August 9, 2005

Response by poster: I just picked up this suggestion from the friend I'll be visiting:
posted by cior at 8:04 AM on August 9, 2005

If you're free for whole days, Baltimore is but a short train hop away. It has the unfinest art museum in North America: the American Visionary Art Museum.
posted by scruss at 8:09 AM on August 9, 2005

4912 Wisconsin Ave
(name of restaurant is 4912)

Best Thai Ever.
posted by seinfeld at 8:25 AM on August 9, 2005

I really suggest you spend part of a day wandering up and down 14th Street, NW. It is rapidly becoming an quirky shopping area. There is an independent bookstore at 1541 14th St, NW called Candida's. (That's 14th and Q St, I think.) I especially suggest the strip of shops in the 1800 block of 14th, starting with Pulp, then HomeRule, Go Mama Go, and then a bit further up are Muleh and another furnishings store whose name I can't remember at the moment. Pulp is quirky gifts and cards; HomeRule funky, urban housewares; Go Mama Go cool (mostly Asian) gifts. The 1800 block starts at 14th and S St. Also, the Chinatown area is metro accessible and quickly becoming a big restaurant scene, although mostly national names.
posted by juggler at 8:33 AM on August 9, 2005

seinfeld: Really? I've never been to the one in DC, but the one out in Sterling is pretty bad. The spicy dish I ordered wasn't, the sauces were bland, and the service was appalling.

The best Thai food in the area isn't in the District--it's Duangrat's in the Bailey's Crossroads part of Falls Church, Virginia.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:50 AM on August 9, 2005

Metroblogging DC talks about things going on in the district and you have a few weeks to watch it before you come. On the Washington Post the Going out Gurus talk about things that range from bars and happy hour to odd museums and happenings.

For food you should go look around on Chowhound's DC/Baltimore area discussion for mention of things that sound up your alley. It's a godawful interface but one of the consistently good sources of informaion in my experience. The DCFoodies blog is also good and very targeted on this area.

If you're there on the weekend you can go over to the Eastern Market, an outdoor market with a range of things from jewlery trinkets to handmade crafts. If you go on saturday morning there's market lunch (don't mind the name) that has some of the best blueberry pancakes I've had in my life.
posted by phearlez at 8:52 AM on August 9, 2005

I second Duangrat (and its sister, Raibeng) for Thai. There's also the fabulous and dirt-cheap Edy's nearby for Peruvian-style charcoal roasted chicken--I swear to you this will be the best chicken you've ever had.

That whole area would be a fun place to cruise around, actually, especially if you then head up the street to Eden Center--all sorts of Asian food and shopping, if you're into that sort of thing. Don't leave without trying a few bahn mi and some pho.

Dupont Circle is also a fun place to bop around. Sure, it's a little yuppiefied, but there's still lots to do and see and eat. There's an Olsson's there, and Kramerbooks is worth ducking into.

If you go to Adams Morgan, be sure to have dinner at one of the Ethiopian places. Meskerem is my favorite. Julia's Empanadas (in Dupont or Adams Morgan) is great for a quick, cheap bite).

The Third Thursday gallery walk would be fun, too. Sure, it's crowded with folks looking for free drinks, but, hey, free drinks.

If you decide to do Eastern Market, let me know--I'm just down the street!
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:39 AM on August 9, 2005

There is always the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Hospital. Where else can you see actual body parts of dead presidents?

After that you can stroll on Georgia Avenue and find just about any type of ethnic food in a million dive restaurants. There are some spectacular Sene/Gambian places up there!
posted by Pollomacho at 10:04 AM on August 9, 2005

Cashion's looks right up our alley. Thanks C.L.
posted by trbrts at 10:38 AM on August 9, 2005

leafwoman - I think you mean Game Fish. (scroll down for pic)
posted by grateful at 11:10 AM on August 9, 2005

Afterwords Books in Dupont Circle is the only thing I know of that's open 24 hours Fri and Sat (that's a BIG deal in DC) . Grab a book, step up to the latte bar.
posted by brucec at 2:06 PM on August 9, 2005

The Kennedy Center Open House Arts Festival is on Saturday, September 10. It's free, and there are a lot of different types of performers.

Loehmann's Twin Cinemas (Fandango link for contact info - theatre doesn't have site) in Falls Church shows Indian movies. And for really rare film, there's always the National Archives Motion Picture/Video Research Room in College Park, MD.

- Hole In The Wall Books in Falls Church
- Chapters Bookstore, Metro Center
- Daedalus Books Outlet, Columbia, MD
posted by candyland at 3:00 PM on August 9, 2005

If you don't like art museums but would consider others, how about the National Air and Space Museum and/or the National Building Museum? The former is self-explanatory; the latter specializes in architecture, engineering, construction, etc.
posted by rob511 at 12:36 AM on August 10, 2005

The Kennedy Center Open House is a fantastic suggestion, candyland. I've been with my daughter a couple of times. It's a crowd, but it's well managed, and there's all sorts of stuff to do, like go on stage, play with orchestra instruments, free concerts, all that.

There are also free concerts every day at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage. Check the schedule to see what's playing--sometimes it's Hugh Masekela or the Afro-Cuban All Stars or Norah Jones, sometimes it's the Lake Minnetonka Highschool chorus.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:30 AM on August 10, 2005

Roof Garden: the 'Sky Terrace' atop the Hotel Washington (15th and Penna Ave) is more well-known than Perry's in Adams Morgan (although I prefer the latter, as I used to live right around the corner).

Be wary of that Market Lunch at the Eastern Market -- some people think it's great (like NPR's Susan Stamberg, which raises a big red flag, in my book) but when I go out to eat I don't want food served on paper plates with plastic forks, 'specially if it's pancakes.
posted by Rash at 9:57 AM on August 10, 2005

For a restaurant, I'd recommend Southside 815 myself, particularly for Sunday brunch.

Most of the other stuff I would recommend has already been mentioned, like the Eastern Market/Adams Morgan, AFI, etc.
posted by gemmy at 10:08 AM on August 10, 2005

If you like city secrets, I'd suggest one of the following tours:

Scandal Tours - conducted by the comedy troupe, Gross National Product.


Egypt on the Potomac - focuses on evidence of ancient Egyptian architecture, symbolism, and philosophy that was supposedly embedded in various monuments throughout the city by the forefathers.


Politics and Prose Bookstore on Connecticut Ave. NW is the best book store I've ever been to - perfect size, perfect selection, amazing children's books that look more like artists' books.

Local 16 on U St. NW has a great rooftop deck - no gardens, unfortunately - but still a really cool place to get a drink.

If you happen to be a vegan/vegetarian you can try my cheaper favorites - Java Green on 19th St. N.W. and Soul Vegetarian's Exodus on Georgia Ave. N.W.

The Hirshorn Museum (contemporary art) has an amazing "exhibit" right now by a woman who's work I experienced at PS1 in New York City a while back. Her name is Janet Cardif and she does these audio walking tours where you put headphones on and she leads you around to all these unfamiliar places by yourself as she's guiding you along and making observations - very cool and a very different way to think about art.

There's one room in the National Gallery that must be seen by everyone - it's an entire room full of Alexander Calder's mobiles and they have them all moving with all this dramtic lighting cast on them which produces all these moving shadows on the white walls. I love to just sit there and stare at them - it's in the East Building and only takes a second - you can literally run in and out (or stay longer) - and it's just beautiful.

Check out The City Paper at www.washingtoncitypaper.com for tons of rare movies - besides the indie stuff you're going to find at AFI or E St. Cinema, they have listings for movies playing at various embassies and museums - cool free stuff, sometimes really old footage. lots of documentary-type stuff.

I also heard from a friend that you can go to the National Archives and watch lots of different types of old and rare footage. She got some really old rare footage of WWII stuff and they give it to you with headphones and you can watch it all there in a little cubicle. Sorry I don't know about the specifics, but it sounds like there's a lot to discover there and it's available to the general public.

For classical music, check out the Kennedy Center - they have about 1 or 2 free shows a day, you just have to search for them. Or the recently completed Strathmore in Rockville, MD may be more your style, if you've got some cash, although Rockville is 30-45min outide the center of the city because of the horrendous traffic. If you go there, you may want to consider taking the metro (there's a Strathmore stop).

For gardens (not rooftop, unfortunately) you can check out the National Botanical Garden, which is right by the Capitol - it's like a rainforest in a big glass greenhouse - or the National Arboretum, which has the most amazing exhibit of bonsai trees I've ever seen including a tiny Giant Sequoia and tiny Cypress trees!

Personally, I find Dupont Circle rather boring unless you go to the farmer's market on Sunday morning and talk to the guy with the parrots or the kids trying to sell you stuff on the streetcorner from the Zendik cult - they're a hoot. Same with Adam's Morgan. It's a bit cheesy for the most part, except Asylum is pretty cool if you're into cheap vegan brunch. 14th St. NW is great - cool, funky shopping, some galleries, and if you keep going up to U St. NW you'll find some more great, quirky shopping and vintage stores(up to 18th St. NW).
posted by CristinaM at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2005

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