With inauguration just around the corner, my thoughts drifted this week to my inaugural post on The Long Weekender, when I wrote about my adopted hometown of Washington, D.C. It was late August—the perfect time to peruse the produce at Eastern Market, sit in the stands at a late season Nats game, or stroll through the monuments and memorials at dusk.
But five months later, in the middle of winter, I find myself in a very different District of Columbia. The skies are clear, the humidity gone, and the crowds—at least until inauguration weekend—have all gone home. Instead of hiking the shores of the Potomac River, it’s a season meant for warm drinks, cozy restaurants, and quiet museums.
So if you find yourself in the nation’s capital on a cold, wintery weekend, here are some (mostly) budget-friendly ways to spend three days.
The Inn Crowd
It was more than 90 years ago when the doors first opened to The Tabard Inn, a cozy 40-room hotel on a quiet stretch of N Street near Dupont Circle. In the years since then, this small inn has become one of the city’s most charming places to stay, while the accompanying restaurant serves the District’s favorite brunch every Saturday and Sunday. With a daily changing menu of locally-sourced and globally-influenced cuisine, there are two dishes you can always count on at The Tabard Inn—unforgettable savory tarts and the most delicious cinnamon sugar doughnuts in Washington (1739 N Street N.W., reservations strongly recommended).
I Wish I Had A River I Could Skate Away On
A short Metro ride southeast will bring you to the front door of the National Archives, home of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. And while you can pop in for free to get a firsthand look at the founding documents, clever long weekenders will head across the street to the ice skating rink in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. For a mere $11, you can rent a pair of skates and practice your triple lutz for hours, all with a grand view of the National Mall (7th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.).
If you’ve timed your visit for the holiday season, take an afternoon stroll to the U.S. Botanic Garden. Established by Congress in 1820, this living plant museum is a particular treat during the holidays, when the conservatory displays intricate replicas of the memorials and landmarks on the National Mall—made entirely out of plant materials (100 Maryland Avenue S.W.).
This Must Be The Place
After a long day spent in the brisk winter air, warm up with dinner at Mintwood Place, chef Cedric Maupillier’s delightful fusion of French and American cuisine. Open since 2011 in the heart of Adams Morgan, Mintwood Place has the warm ambience of a bustling neighborhood bistro, and a menu that keeps the neighbors coming back again and again. Whether you opt for the dry-aged New York strip steak frites or the delectable cast iron Amish chicken, don’t pass up the garlicky goodness of the escargot hushpuppies (1813 Columbia Road N.W.).
Two Broke Girls
When it comes to brainstorming a location for brunch, the local pie shop may not be the first thought that comes to mind. Unless, of course, the pie shop in question is Dangerously Delicious, home to the District’s best homemade quiches and pies. Founded by Baltimore musician Rodney Henry, Dangerously Delicious bakes more than 50 types of savory and sweet pies, with a daily menu that rotates between 15 and 25 seasonal varieties. But wise travelers will drop in on the weekend, just in time for the Broke Brunch Deal. For only $10, you’ll be treated to a mimosa, a salad, and a slice of quiche—the spinach and goat cheese if you know what’s good for you (1339 H Street N.E.).
In Order To Form A More Perfect Union Market
Back in 1871, Centre Market—a commercial crossroads for the city’s diverse communities—opened in northeast Washington, D.C. But the 20th century brought mixed fortunes to what eventually became the indoor Union Market, until the 1980s saw an exodus of merchants from the aging industrial complex. Fast forward to 2012, when a revitalized Union Market opened to the public, breathing new life into a stagnant neighborhood and highlighting the exceptional work of 40 local artisans. So take a leisurely stroll through the vendors and craftsmen, pausing to enjoy everything from the microbrewed coffee at Peregrine Espresso to the fresh oysters and clams at Rappahannock Oyster Co. (1309 5th Street N.E.).
Come By The Hills
Stomach filled and bones warmed, you’re ready to venture across the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place of more than 400,000 active duty service members, veterans, and their families. Encompassing 624 hilly acres that once belonged to Robert E. Lee, Arlington National Cemetery is a beautifully tranquil place to explore and pay your respects to President John F. Kennedy, President William Howard Taft, and the ever-sacred Tomb of the Unknowns. To appreciate the dedication with which the U.S. Army honors the tomb, be sure to attend the Changing of the Guard, which is done in winter (without the crowds) each hour, on the hour.
I’ll Have A Blue Christmas Without You
On a cold winter night in the District, there are few more thrilling sensations than walking through the door at Blue Duck Tavern. As local meats, poultry, and fish roast in the wood-burning oven, the aroma of freshly-baked apple pie drifts over from the open pastry kitchen. Executive chef Sebastien Archambault’s menu focuses on simple, traditional preparations of the best American ingredients, resulting in a culinary splurge that is worth every penny (1201 24th Street N.W., reservations strongly recommended).
If you’re a clever long weekender and coordinated your visit with the U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments calendar, begin your (early) morning on Capitol Hill, lined up outside the highest court in the land. Although lines form early for the 9:30 a.m. seating, you’ll be rewarded with a seat in the most intimidating room in Washington, as the nine justices listen to attorneys’ arguments. And by “listen to,” of course I mean “interrupt” (1 First Street N.E.).
Here Comes The SUNdeVICH
Tucked away in a small alley in the heart of Shaw, a small converted garage space is quickly becoming the home of Washington’s favorite sandwiches. Welcome to SUNdeVICH, a powerhouse of global flavors and the freshest local ingredients. With a wide selection of sandwiches named for international cities—from the Madrid chorizo and chimichurri to the Kingston jerk chicken and pineapple salsa—SUNdeVICH sends its patrons on a trip around the world with each bite (1314 9th Street N.W.).
While the cold weather and small crowds make winter an ideal time to visit any of Washington’s museums, the National Portrait Gallery is a natural destination for lovers of art, history, and architecture. Housed in the lovely old Patent Office Building, this arm of the Smithsonian Institution is dedicated to telling the American story through portraits of the people who have shaped our culture and history. After perusing the presidential portrait exhibit, be sure to admire the breathtaking glass canopy of the enclosed Kogod Courtyard—you’ll experience all the joy of sitting outdoors without the frigid weather (8th and F Streets N.W.).
Traveling with the kids? Rather than subject them to a dreaded art museum, consider paying a visit to the National Museum of Natural History (Constitution Avenue and 10th Avenue N.W.) or the National Air and Space Museum (Independence Avenue and 6th Street S.W.). For the bargain price of nothing, you can admire the Apollo 11 command module, touch a real moon rock, watch a live tarantula feeding, or gaze upon the sparkling Hope Diamond.
The Mussels From Brussels
There’s no better place to end your wintery weekend than the coziest gastropub in all of Washington. Since opening its doors on H Street in 2007, Granville Moore’s has received accolades throughout the District for its impressive Belgian beer list, warm and charming atmosphere, and unbeatable moules frites. From the traditional white wine and garlic-based moules marinere to the pork belly and blue cheese-accented moules bleu, Granville Moore’s serves over 1,200 pounds of its mouthwatering mussels each week, most notably on Monday nights when a bowl goes for only $12 (1238 H Street N.E.). So use that extra cash on a Maredsous 10 Triple, and tip your glass to another long weekend well done.
A Few Notes
Planning a visit to the District of Columbia for another, warmer season? Before you go, be sure to read The Long Weekender’s tips for how to best enjoy the city in cherry blossom season, or during spring, summer, or fall.
TITLE: Union Market | SATURDAY: The Capitol; huevos rancheros at the Tabard Inn; skaters in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden; a model of the Capitol at the U.S. Botanic Garden | SUNDAY: The chicken pot pie at Dangerously Delicious | MONDAY: The Kogod Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery; the west front of the Capitol.