48 hours in Washington, D.C.

48 hours in Washington, D.C.

Despite Captain Chaos in the White House (or maybe because of him), there’s never a dull moment in D.C.

Blistering political acrimony aside, D.C. has much to offer—like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the latest jewel in the Smithsonian’s crown, and a red-hot, no-reservations dining scene serving up fire-licked Middle Eastern delicacies, Southern barbecued veggies and chewy bagels to rival Montreal’s best. Those looking to take a stroll will find sunny benches in out-of-the-way parks, all the better for poring over the latest edition of the Washington Post.

Campaign Quarters

Eaton D.C., Downtown
Eaton D.C. on K Street is smack-dab in the middle of lobbyist central and bills itself as a “conscious retreat” for “purpose-driven travellers.” Bedside tables are stocked with the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights, and the hotel is home to a community-based radio station. The rooms feature dark-wood furnishings, colourful rugs and throws, a Himalayan salt lamp and minibars stocked with craft beer and kombucha. 1201 K St. NW, 202-289-7600, eatonworkshop.com/hotel/dc

Holy Lodgings

The Line D.C., Adams Morgan
This revamped property, in a hip neighbourhood with plenty of nightlife, leans in to its past as a century-old church: organ pipes have been reconfigured into a chandelier that dangles from 60-foot vaulted ceilings, and the cocktail bar was once the nave. Some of the rooms have stellar views of the Washington Monument; all of them include herringbone hardwood floors, an abundance of work by local artists and living, breathing plants. 1770 Euclid St. NW, 202-588-0525, thelinehotel.com/dc

Fresh Perspective

Elle, Mount Pleasant
The all-day kitchen at this north D.C. favourite knocks out bread and baked goods in the morning and pressed Reubens and Cubanos at lunch. Then there are the inventive dinner plates, like charred kimchee goosed with chili and smothered in labneh, piled over rye bread, or creamy scallop crudo with smoked leek ranch that arrives with potato skins for dipping. Passion fruit mousse cake surrounded by sesame-pound-cake crumble is a tasty (and photogenic) last note. 3221 Mt. Pleasant St. NW, 202-652-0040, eatatelle.com

Friendly Sips

Left Door, Cardozo
Left Door maintains a very civilized policy: there should never be more people in the bar than there are seats for them. That keeps the vibe intimate and the volume down, so patrons won’t need to shout over the cocktail menu, which skews heavily toward the amber liquids. Its “Where the Buffalo Roam” cocktail combines bourbon and Cocchi Americano with a cardamom tincture, and “Bad Pickup Line”—its name notwithstanding—seduces with rum, bright citrus and honey syrup. 1345 S St. NW, 202-734-8576, dcleftdoor.com

Specialty Delights

Call Your Mother Deli,Park View
It’s worth breathing deeply and braving the lines at this self-proclaimed “Jew-ish” deli, where Montreal-style bagels are paired with unconventional toppings like bacon peanut butter or black sesame cream cheese. (Purists are well-served by plain homemade cream cheese and lox or the whitefish salad.) Pastrami pops up in tacos, in crispy fried rice and in their popular riff on a Philly cheesesteak, served on a challah roll. 3301 Georgia Ave., callyourmotherdeli.com

Lunar Devotion

Washington National Cathedral, Cathedral Heights
This neo-Gothic church, open to all faiths, is where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his final Sunday sermon. Inside, there’s a stained-glass window embedded with an actual piece of the moon, the only lunar rock NASA has given to a non-government organization. Outside, the 112 scattered gargoyles and grotesques mix the sacred with the profane—there are depictions of Darth Vader and the alien from Alien. 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW, 202-537-6200, cathedral.org

Art in Residence

The Phillips Collection, Dupont Circle
The Phillips tends to get lost in D.C.’s museum bounty, but it’s the nation’s oldest modern-art museum and it’s fresh off a renovation of its 123-year-old quarters. There’s a brazenly red O’Keeffe leaf, a luminous El Greco and a quartet of Rothkos in their own room. 1600 21st St. NW, 202-387-2151, phillipscollection.org

Spring Awakening

West Potomac Park, Southwest Washington
Along the Potomac River and grazing the National Mall, this federal park on reclaimed land is home to multiple presidential memorials and the Tidal Basin, a man-made inlet covering more than 100 acres. Rent a paddleboat when they return to the reservoir in mid-March to take in the thousands of charming bubble gum–pink sakuras that line its shore, an early-20th-century gift from the mayor of Tokyo. 2912 Independence Ave. SW.