Since RWA will be coming to my neighborhood in July of this year, I thought this local resident’s perspective might help a few of you in making plans for this summer.

Hotels: 

The conference is being held at the Marriott Wardman Park.  If the hotel is too expensive for you or is already booked, there is one good budget option I can recommend.  The Days Inn Connecticut Avenue is just two short Metro stops away and in a very nice (and safe) neighborhood.  Door to door time to the Marriott Wardman Park would probably be about 15 minutes or less – including a five-minute wait for a subway. 

If convenience is most important to you, the Omni Shoreham is quite literally at the conference hotel’s back door.

A quick Google for “budget hotels” turned up a few I know by disreputable sight.  It’s very easy to get sucked in by phrases like “view of the Capitol.”  Proceed with caution.  Some of the most crime-ridden parts of the city have those great views and I’ve always felt sorry for tourists who think they’re signing up for one thing and actually end up with something far different.

Restaurants:

There are plenty of great and sort of affordable restaurants in DC – and, gee, there are just too many for me to list.  I do have two favorites, though:  Lavendou is one Metro stop away from the conference hotel and is a lovely, quiet little French bistro with terrific service.  Café la Ruche is probably one of my favorite restaurants of all time.  Situated beside the C & O Canal in Georgetown, Café La Ruche feels like a real Parisian bistro (really) complete with French servers.  The food is delicious and affordable and the ambience relaxing.  And desert?  It’s justifiably famous.

As for the big deal restaurants, there are a few I can personally recommend: Michele Richard’s Central is a bit out of the way since it’s located on Pennsylvania Avenue (Metro Center subway stop), but everything on the menu is simply fabulous.  Then there’s Café Milano in Georgetown, the place to see and be seen – though I’ve been seen there maybe twice in my whole life.   There’s also Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro (Foggy Bottom Metro) and Sequoia, a beautiful restaurant situated by the Potomac in Georgetown with spectacular waterside views.  Restaurant Nora has been the number one spot for romantic dinners for years now and, if you’re lucky, you just might catch Bill and Hillary there.  It’s located on the edge of Dupont Circle, a neighborhood I lived in for years that will always be close to my heart.

A word of warning:  There is a cluster of three or four generic Italian and French restaurants on Connecticut Avenue directly across from the hotel and my advice is to avoid them at all costs.  A mediocre plate of pasta at one will set you back something like $25 (and I’m talking lunch here) and an equally uninspiring glass of wine runs about $10.  I know they’re convenient, but resist the temptation.  You’ll thank me.

Neighborhoods: 

You’ll want to check out Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Chinatown.  The latter is a relatively newly developed area and, for my money, is turning out to be one of the best spots in town for funky shopping and great food.  I don’t do the club thing anymore, but if you do, this neighborhood is the place to go.

Things to Do:

Shopping:  DC has many great shopping areas, but an easy and quick bet is the neighborhood situated at the Friendship Heights Metro stop four stops away from the hotel.  This is a high end, window-shopping paradise, including Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Dior, and Barney’s.  Everything is located within a block or two of the Metro stop directly on or near Wisconsin Avenue

Museums:  In addition to the big ones on the National mall, also consider the Spy Museum, dedicated to all things spy; the Newseum, a fascinating museum devoted to the history of the news media; Madame Tussauds; and the new Crime and Punishment Museum (which I have yet to see).

The National Zoo is located just about two blocks from the hotel.  There you will find- in addition to lions and tigers and bears – our adorable, extra special, incredible pandas.  There may be a cub (fingers crossed) and if so mom and baby won’t be out for the public yet, but adorable Tai Shan will be.  In July Tai will have just had his fourth birthday and may soon (sob!) be on his way to China, so don’t miss the chance to see our rambunctious little (okay, not so much anymore) bear.  I’m all about the pandas, obviously, but the Zoo is a wonderful experience and – if you’re lucky – the clouded leopard cubs just born might be on display.

Random Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of Metro.  It is your friend.  It’s easy to use, safe, affordable, goes almost everywhere (except Georgetown), and everybody here uses it all the time.
  • Be prepared for steamy heat.  Legend has it that D.C. was built on a swamp and in July you will believe it.
  • Cabs are readily available in most places in D.C.  Don’t bother calling ahead, just hit the street and hail one. If you’re going to Georgetown, cabs are just about the only practical way to get there and back.

I’m sure I’ll think of more stuff as the conference gets closer.  If anybody else can recommend great restaurants or a good budget hotel, please let us know in the comments section.

-Sandy AAR