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The Washington Monument will help orient you if you take an evening constitutional along the National Mall: The 169-metre tall obelisk is at one end and the U.S. Capitol Building is at the other. The monument itself remains closed because of damage done during an earthquake in August 2011. (Lian Mah/Lian Mah)
The Washington Monument will help orient you if you take an evening constitutional along the National Mall: The 169-metre tall obelisk is at one end and the U.S. Capitol Building is at the other. The monument itself remains closed because of damage done during an earthquake in August 2011. (Lian Mah/Lian Mah)

A capital time in a capital city Add to ...

Many Canadians, when they think of Washington, D.C., may visualize Abe Lincoln perched on high, or the White House floodlit to perfection.

But beneath its institutional facade, Washington possesses an urban and happening core. You’ve got business to attend to, but before the sun comes up (or goes down), there’s a lot you can see, taste and experience in the U.S. capital.

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On a typical morning arrival, you may want to check in for a breakfast on-the-go at Ted’s Bulletin, located in popular Barracks Row. Even President Barack Obama has stopped by for a nibble at this throwback joint filled with 1920s paraphernalia and American fare. Ted’s offers a classy take-out window in the morning if you’re strictly business and eating on the fly.

Eastern Market, also part of Barracks Row, is a small Capitol Hill neighbourhood where you can shop at a boutique or sit down and be catered to at some of the area’s classic bars and eateries. (You can also buy fresh produce at a century-old market: If you stay over for a weekend, Eastern Market’s impressive open-air market runs Saturdays and Sundays.)

For food and drinks after a day of work, take your business buddies back to Barracks Row. Start off at two stops that will allow you to walk by the Capitol building lit up and glistening on any D.C. evening: Senart’s Oyster and Chop House and Mr. Henry’s Restaurant.

Senart’s Oyster and Chop House features a happy hour at its raw oyster bar from 4 to 6 p.m. If you miss that one, there’s also late-night slurp at 11 p.m. Located in a century-old building, the Senarts have been doing this since 1913 so it’s a great place to stop for a traditional transaction.

After dinner, duck in for a nightcap at Mr. Henry’s Victorian Pub restaurant. The likes of Bill Cosby and Woody Allen have taken in live music here.

If your tastes are more uptown, Dupont Circle is a cosmopolitan neighbourhood with some of Washington’s finest museums, historic homes and foreign embassies. If you’re on a midday walk from meeting to meeting, the Circle itself is a gathering place with park benches, grass and a statue commemorating Samuel Francis Du Pont, made a Rear Admiral during the Civil War. It’s a great place to sit and people-watch, or make final amendments to a proposal.

For a great place to eat, try Smith and Wollensky’s on 19{+t}{+h} street, not far from the circle. You can’t miss the bar’s forest-green canopy and smart front patio. S&W’s Truffled Mac and Cheese is the swankiest way to relive your childhood (the recipe is on their website).

When the lights go down in the city, Dupont also offers cool and classy venues. Scoring enthusiastic reviews in the city is Veritas Wine Bar. Veritas has a veritable farmyard of a cheese menu. Select your goat, cow, or sheep cheese paired with a cured meat or paté. Happy hour happens from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday; on Monday you can enjoy half-price bottles.



If you want more a night of culture, The John F. Kennedy Center is excellent for live theatre or music events. Any given day, you can inquire about buying tickets from 10 a.m. onwards. This monument of a building offers events in several venues, including the Opera House, Concert Hall, Terrace Theater, and the Jazz Club Gallery.

Another cultural venue is the Warner Theatre. Built in 1924, The Warner's distinctive place in the history of Washington began when dozens of grand theatres and movie houses lit up downtown. It’s now one of the only originals remaining. From Thich Nhat Hanh to Tony Bennett, this venue has a diverse range of performances. It's a stunning palace with all of the pomp and velvet of the 1920s.

For an education on the history of this city, you can consult the Smithsonian website http://www.si.edu/ for locations, maps and events. Most D.C. museums are run by the Smithsonian, so are free to enter and can be found on the Mall.  My favourites: the National Gallery of Art – beyond American, Italian, and French painting exhibits, you can take a stroll through the outdoor sculpture garden. It will take more than a few hours to see the gallery properly so you can split up your visits for different business trips. You can also enjoy the Hirshhorn Museum (more modern art) and the Corcoran Gallery, which focuses largely on Washington-based artists. You do pay to enter the Corcoran, as it is not a Smithsonian museum.

To end the day, have dinner as close as you can to the White House. It’s recommended you try Central Michel Richard. Since you’re in the United States of America, you should have classic American food. However, this is a way to avoid Denny’s-style food-piling. Central Michel Richard offers the red, white and blue flare of both French and American cuisine. This very popular restaurant is a highly desired spot but you can book a table on their website from your handheld and keep on with the pace of your day. Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, Central Michel is close to the White House and The National Museum of Natural History, and not too far from The Washington Monument.

For afters, have a drink at The Marvin, a clever tribute to famous singer Marvin Gaye’s time in Belgium. With a vaulted ceiling and lustrous, antique chandelier, this bar features casual cocktail service, an extensive selection of wines by the glass, and a beer garden.

So, while D.C. might seem like a suit city, there is fun to be had when the working day is done.

****

4 p.m. Wrap things up early so you can check out the Andy Warhol Headlines exhibit at The National Gallery of Art (admission free), located on the National Mall at Constitution Avenue; it’s open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

5 p.m. Stroll the National Mall: Anything but an American retail space, this Mall is for walking.

6 p.m. Get a bite to eat. There are lots of choices, but you might try Mr. Henry’s Victorian Pub restaurant (Mr. Henry’s) or Central Michel Richard (http://www.centralmichelrichard.com/ ) You’re in the United States of America, so you should try classic American food.

7 p.m. Take in a show at the Kennedy Center or the Warner Theatre. Remember to pre-book. Or if you prefer sporting events, head to the Verizon Centre in Chinatown. It’s the home of the Washington Capitals NHL hockey team and the Washington Wizards NBA basketball team.

10:30 p.m. Wet your whistle at The Marvin (http://www.marvindc.com/) a clever tribute to famous singer Marvin Gaye’s time in Belgium. This bar is very lively seven nights a week with mod-soul and rare groove deejays on the turntables.

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