Ahead of his move into the Capitol on Tuesday, President Elect Barack Obama will no doubt be relieved to hear that we think Washington DC is a great place to hang out. Now, I think he’s already sorted for accommodation (something about a big white house?), but if you’re planning a visit to celebrate the presidential inauguration, or hadn’t ever really considered Washington as a holiday destination, let us whet your appetite with some edited highlights from Mr & Mrs Smith’s Washington DC destination guide…
WHY TO GO
Representing more than just a cog in the government machine, this venerable city’s surprisingly green landscape nurtures a cultural hotbed of free museums and monuments – including the iconic White House. Curiously, Washington DC (aka ‘The District’) is one of the few big US city destinations in which skyscrapers and tower blocks aren’t the focus of the skyline. This relative architectural modesty is thanks to the city’s founders, who decreed that no building could be taller than the Capitol building, ensuring that the magnificently domed edifice took pride of place in the nation’s line of sight. And as if that wasn’t enough incentive, remember (to quote the big man himself), ‘anything is possible in America…’
WHERE TO STAY
Whether you’re a visiting dignitary or just want to be treated like one, the historic, unashamedly splendid St Regis Washington DC strikes all the right notes. The 1920s building has recently had a mega-bucks makeover, boasts the excellent Alain Ducasse restaurant Adour, and, bonus points, is perfectly located for eyeballing that big ol’ house on the hill. The St Regis’ Presidential Suite is the size of a house and positively festooned in luxury, although quite why the man in question would need one when he has his own perfectly good pad over the road is beyond us. If you don’t have $10,000 to fling around on a hotel room, we’d suggest opting for one of the eight sienna-hued Metropolitan Suites instead – spacious, luxurious, and ideal for families as they adjoin the Superior Double rooms. What about the service, you ask? The hotel’s army of BlackBerry-equipped butlers is on hand 24 hours a day to meet every beeping request you might make, so you can be sure you’ll be treated like the first family.
WHEN TO GO
If not now, to cheer on Obama, why not visit in Spring – early April is perfect for those looking to flex their photography muscle, when beautifully photogenic cherry blossom blooms across town.
WHERE TO EAT
If Alain Ducasse’s sexy-looking eaterie Adour (left) doesn’t tickle your tastebuds, or you’re just looking for a change of scenery, try the Old Ebbit Grill (+1 202 347 4800) at 675 15th Street NE, just steps from the White House. This classic American eatery is a hit both with locals and visitors; try to get a table up front by the massive street-side windows and watch Washington walk by while you knock back oysters by the dozen. We also love the fabulous Georgetown deli Dean & Deluca (+1 202 342 2500), at 3276 M Street NW; this picnicker’s paradise also has an espresso bar serving unbeatable coffee when you need a break from president-spotting.
…a peek at the Pentagon (now fully restored after 9/11). Even though it boasts almost 18 miles of corridors, and could fit the Capitol in several times over, its cunning design means any one point in the building is within seven minutes’ walk of any other. Fact.
Get more inspiration, find and book hotels and read restaurant reviews in Mr & Mrs Smith’s full guide to Washington DC…