Weekends in and around the US capital, says Carina Villanueva, are never dull, with chances to view street performances and cultural exhibits. It’s the time to enjoy crab cakes or Saturday brunch.
Explore ye olde town
Across the Potomac River is Old Town Alexandria, known for its old houses and architecture. Depending on the season, one can cruise the Potomac, join a garden or ghost tour or walk the Civil War trails. And there’s always a chance to come across a street performance or view unique cultural exhibits along King Street.
The Old Town has not only retained its colonial character but the trades that have operated there for centuries, among them cobblers, oriental carpet cleaners, lamp sellers, who are now joined by boutiques, art galleries, antique dealers and restaurants.
Make time to drop by Van’s Hair Salon, a hole in the wall on the corner of King and Washington Streets, for quick and reasonably priced haircuts; Bread & Chocolate on King for sumptuous breakfasts of omelette and European pastries; Paper Source for exquisite stationery or a rubber stamping class; Union Street Public House for fresh oysters and clam chowder; and Ben & Jerry’s on South Union Street for homemade ice-cream.
Then cap your visit to the area with a stroll on the boardwalk and marina behind the famous Torpedo Factory where local artists showcase their work. The shops at Old Town are open 1000 to 1900, except on Sunday 1200 to 1900.
Gorge on crab cakes
A stone’s throw away from Capitol Hill is an old standby – the Eastern Market. For over a century, this charming landmark has served as a farmers’ market and a meeting place for the neighbourhood. It is just about two blocks from the Eastern Market Metro Station.
It boasts a vast array of organic and naturally grown fruits, vegetables, jams, preserves, ornamental plants and herbs. Food merchants at the South Hall carry local cheese, sausage, seafood, bread and pastries and flowers. You might consider trying the famous crab cakes at the Market Lunch or just have your morning cuppa at the swanky restaurants nearby. Across the way is the Market Festival Art and Crafts Fair showcasing everything handmade.
South Hall is open Tuesday to Saturday 0700 to 1800 and Sunday 0900 to 1600; Flea Market at Eastern Market is open Sunday 1000 to 1700, www.easternmarket.org
Linger in the bistro
Don’t miss the Saturday brunch at Bistro Francaise in historic Georgetown. Every bite is worth your buck! Opt for the Champagne lunch set offering a glass of the bubbly, soup or salad, an entrée and homemade French pastries for dessert. Veal, chicken and seafood entrées are excellent choices. The combination
of wood interiors, snowy white tablecloth and vintage posters create a cosy and relaxed atmosphere that invites lingering.
Georgetown is a comfortable walk from the Foggy Bottom/GWU metro station. Or one can take the Circulator Bus from designated bus stops along K Street in DC. Validated parking for two hours is available only on Fridays and Saturdays at the Georgetown Park Mall.
Bistro Francaise is open Friday to Saturday 1100 to 0400; Sunday to Thursday 11000 to 0300, tel 1 202 338 3830, www.bistrofrancaise.com
Do the Kennedy
Enjoy the tranquillity of the open spaces at the Kennedy Center. It is worth the trip, whether attending one of its free concerts or just taking in the wonderful views from the Terrace – this is one of the capital’s best-kept secrets. Head for the top floor where the deli, restaurants and snack bars are located and bag a table by the magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows and enjoy a truly spectacular dining experience. Free shuttle buses to the Center are available from the Foggy Bottom/GWU Blue or Orange line Metro Station.
The Roof Terrace Restaurant is open Sunday to Wednesday 1700 to 2000 (based on performance schedules) and Thursday to Saturday 1700 to 2100.
It’s also open for Sunday Kitchen Brunch from 1130 to 1430. KC Café is open Monday to Wednesday 1630 to 2000 and Thursday to Sunday 1130 to 2200 but sometimes, the hours may vary, so do check. For tickets and information, call 1 800 444 1324, www.kennedy-centre.org
There’s no place anywhere in the city to land the freshest catch of the day than here. This is the main destination for either cooked or steamed Maryland blue crabs by the dozen or bushel. In one corner, you can feast on the tastiest oysters in half shell, succulent steamed shrimps and the best chowders made daily. No visit to DC is complete without sampling of the bounty from the Chesapeake Bay.
It is located on Maine Ave SW, Washington, DC and is open daily.
Go round the Circle
Weekends are made for Dupont Circle. This quiet park in the centre of the bistros and restaurants catering to the embassies during the weekday truly lives up to its international flair but still maintains its distinct character. The trees around the park offer a cool respite from the humdrum of the daily grind for weary Washingtonians.
Ideally located in the northwest, it is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods of the District.
After a leisurely stroll around the park, hours can be spent browsing at one of Dupont Circle’s oldest bookstores – Kramerbooks and its café, the Afterwords. It is tight quarters inside the store and one can only imagine the many love affairs that start in places like these, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays when they have live music.
The bookstore is located at 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036.
Opening hours are 0730 to 0100 daily, except Friday and Saturday when it operates 24 hours, tel 1 202 387 1400, tel 1 202 387 1400, www.kramers.com