HAPPY DAY AFTER VALENTINE’S DAY! To get in a romantic mood we decided to round-things up with the ultimate love letter: the one to Washington, D.C. And since the city has been so good to us, not just any letter would do. So-we asked for some pro-D.C.-lovin’ help.
We rounded up artists, musicians, architects, designers, gallery owners, non-profit folk, musicians, local heroes, chefs and more, all of whom make D.C., in their own way, a city we’re pretty jazzed about right now. We asked them to submit a list of 5 things/people/places/food plates/drinks/anything really that they LOVE (all caps, boldnened) about Washington and hey-they kindly obliged.
Below, you will find our second batch, courtesy of some very hard working men and women. Read, feel the butterflies in your stomach and check out part 1!
Ariel Pasternak, Ann Yang, Maddie Morales, Raisa Aziz, Pineapple DC
- This is city that gives a damn: People engage with social justice in an authentic way, whether that’s through art, policy, food or some other medium.
- This is a city that fan girls hard: D.C. women are not afraid to celebrate and support each other and make “community over competition” a reality. That’s why we #pinefor all of you in the #pineappleDC community!
- This is a city that loves to eat (well!): There has been an huge increase in food options that bring together the good food and foodie movements in big and small ways. Shout out to all of the people behind locally-owned eateries, farmers markets and nearby farms that makes living here so delicious.
- This is city that lives to learn: Where else do you have access to an entire group of museums for free? We’re continually inspired by the insatiable curiosity of our fellow D.C. folk.
- This is a city that understands nuance: We love to make things complicated, for better and for worse.
Septime Webre, Halcyon Stage Artistic Director
- The “Hottie” Pizza at Comet Ping Pong: A scorcher of a pie with pepperoni and jalapenos, best washed down with an Allagash White.
- Gail Clark’s kick-ass Ashtanga Yoga class at Flow Yoga Center on P Street NW, as well as a number of terrific Ashtanga-based classes at Yoga District. Love to detox. (And then re-tox, preferably with an Allagash White…);
- Union Market and its surroundings: This place abounds with a sense of community coming together around that great unifier: F.O.O.D. I’m spending a lot of time there these days, planning the launch of two remarkable cultural initiatives–Halcyon Stage @ Dock 5, and its sister program, Halcyon Stage Pop Up @ Union Market, featuring the Stravinsky Rave/Rite of Spring Dance Party including 78 classical musicians and an electronica DJ, BalletX dancing to the music of Amy Winehouse and the indie rock band Beirut, and Wolf Trap Opera in Philip Glass’ mesmerizing and chilling Fall of the House of Usher which I’ll be directing.
- The Hirshhorn Museum: Without a doubt, my favorite museum in town, with its adventuresome approach to modern and contemporary art, and swell brutalist donut-of-a-building. And sneaking a flask into the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden on a sunny afternoon is a little slice of heaven.
- Getting out of D.C. is so damn easy: Whether it’s an under 3-hour ride on the Acela or a 30-buck bus ride, a quick trip to NYC is easy-peasy. Amazing weekend trips to the Virginia countryside provide a reminder that Oscar Wilde was wrong when he wrote that “nature is a wet place where ducks fly overhead, uncooked.” And one can buy a round trip non-stop flight from Baltimore to Havana for just over $200. D.C.’s an amazing place to be, but equally fun to escape!
Maria Godoy, Senior Editor, NPR Science Desk and Host of The Salt
- The Food: There is a reason that Michelin finally decided to add D.C.’s dining scene to its prestigious restaurant guide. D.C. has come of age as a food-lover’s destination. You want world-class Indian food? Head to Rasika. Craving French classics like duck a la’orange? Le Diplomate has you covered. And I had an almost religious experience at Filipino-food heaven Bad Saint, it was so good.
- The Museums: This sounds like such a touristy thing to say, but it’s amazing how many great, free museums we have access to around here. The other day, I took a break from walking around the Mall and decided to pop into the National Gallery of Art to stare at some Georgia O’Keeffe paintings because, why not? What a privilege.
- The People: Yes, it’s the nation’s capital, so you end up with a lot of political types here. But especially because of the nonprofit scene, the city also draws so many smart, idealistic people from all over. Which means you end up meeting a lot of interesting strangers who might soon end up being good friends.
- The Music: OK, I have a very advantaged perch from which to observe all the great musicians that come into town: NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts. But 9:30 Club and Black Cat are national treasures, not to mention all the bigger music venues in town.
Jamal Gray of Nag Champa Art Ensemble
- Face The Poet: One the last walking, talking, breathing memorial to U Street’s legacy of progressive Black artistry. This is our oracle. Face The Poet is a regular at Busboys & Poets‘ 14th street location, but his story starts well before his good friend Andy Shallal opened those doors. He is a representation of our city’s brilliance, but also a representation of how the city seems to forget its greatest natural resources .. the artists .. the people.
- Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens: D.C. has so many hidden gems east of the river even Washington natives have overlooked. One of which is in my old neighborhood of Kenilworth in North East, The Aquatic Gardens. Essentially a nature reserve on the edge of the city, a block away from the projects. Juxtaposition is everything. Miles of swampland and wildlife to explore. It’s like an oasis inside the city. Perfect for your daytime escapism.
Bounce Beat (Go-Go): This is the evolution of indigenous D.C. music. It’s raw, primal, territorial, but also futuristic. The sound of the city is Go-Go, and Bounce Beat is the pulse.
WPFW 89.3 FM: Commercial free radio operating in D.C. for nearly 40 years. The last real hope for progressive radio in the city and surrounding area. Institutions like this are becoming increasingly important in this age where art & activism must go hand in hand.
Uptown: This is only for my real D.C. folks.. Uptown is the nucleus of the culture.. They already know.. Say Less!!
Matthew Winer, Director of Special Programming at the Kennedy Center
- The Food: Takeout edition: Everyone talks about how great the restaurants are – especially those for which you need to make reservations 6 months in advance, have to wait 5 hours in line to get a table, or spend $250/head for a tasting menu. Yes, those are all great, but D.C. is also home to some of the best takeout and “fresh food made fast” options you could ever dream up! Some of my favorites:
- Comedy Scene: D.C. bred the likes of Dave Chappelle, Lewis Black, Wanda Sykes, among many others, and D.C.’s comedy scene is stronger than ever before. Venues like DC Improv, Big Hunt, Lincoln Theater, Kennedy Center, Warner Theater, Arlington Drafthouse and Drafthouse DC bring national headliners every week. We now have three comedy festivals – The Bentzen Ball Comedy Festival, District of Comedy Festival, and 202 Comedy Festival, and you can find an open mic across the entire DMV each and every night of the week.
- The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage: Where else in this country do you have a free show, open to the public, presenting a different genre of performing arts each and every day of the year? Whether it be jazz, dance, hip hop, classical music, comedy, opera, folk, a cappella, world music… the best emerging acts both locally and nationally, have the opportunity to perform at our National Cultural Center. Next month the Millennium Stage celebrates its twentieth anniversary!
- Sports: Yes, Washington is the only city with four major pro sports teams to not make at least one conference-championship appearance since 2000. My favorite D.C. Sports experience of the past 20 years – witnessing the magic of RG3’s rookie season – is one that ended in utter disappointment and prolonged depression. Being a DC sports fan is never rewarding, but what’s the point if you’re not optimistic?!? So, after years of rooting for poorly-managed basement dweller teams, I look up and see the Nats as perennial playoff contenders, the Skins with a worthwhile quarterback at the helm, the Caps dominating teams across the NHL, and the Wizards emerging in the East. Not to mention Maryland Basketball is first place in the Big Ten. I don’t want to jinx anything, but maybe things are looking up…?
- Building Height Limit: Perhaps my favorite thing about D.C. is the height limit of buildings in the District. The characteristic lends a special quality of intimacy and dignity that gets lost when wandering through claustrophobic Manhattan. Seeing the Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol Building when walking or driving downtown is often awe inspiring.
Stephanie Williams, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of D.C. Music Download
- The D.C. Public Library: The library is one of the best community resources out there. You can do just about anything at the D.C. Public Library–borrow a book, see a film, watch a great show or even record a song in their recording studio for free! There’s really nothing else like it.
- D.C.’s Music Scene: Bands and musicians of all walks of life are able to co-exist here, and there’s a certain level of community and commadarie that makes it feel small and welcoming.
- Affordable, All-Ages Art Events: As expensive as it is to live in D.C., there’s definitely no shortage of great art shows to check out around the city. My personal favorites are the monthly after-hours events at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building and monthly Luce Unplugged shows at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Local Parks: The best part about living in D.C. is how ‘green’ it is–only having to travel just a mile or two down the road to find a great park where you feel disconnected from the city. The National Arboretum, Rock Creek Park, Meridian Hill Park and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens are some of the ones I like to go to when I want to get away from everything for a bit.
D.C.’s Homegrown Music Festivals: Since I’ve moved to D.C., there have been so many new local music festivals that have cropped up. It’s impressive to see the amount of diversity here. There’s just about one for every type of genre–funk (Funk Parade), folk, Americana and bluegrass (Kingman Island Festival), punk and hardcore (Damaged City Fest), hip-hop and electronic (Trillectro), jazz (D.C. Jazz Fest) and so many others that would take too long to list. Very excited for D.C. Music Download to join that list with its first D.C. music festival, Sounds of the City Fest, in March!
Erik Moses, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Sports, Entertainment and Special Events at Events DC
- It’s walkability and accessibility: D.C. is geographically small (68.34 miles2) and also built on a human scale. I love that our city is so walkable and accessible. You never feel as though you are in some concrete jungle where skyscrapers block out the sun creating long caverns like NYC or LA. I loved how quickly I was able to truly assimilate into this place 20 years ago as a recent law school graduate who had only previously lived here for a summer internship. It’s often said that you can connect any two people in the world within six degrees of separation. If that’s true, any two people in DC are only one degree of separation apart. This ease of connectedness, both socially and professionally, has always made me feel as though D.C. was “my city” too.
- It’s a great city to raise children: We often take for granted the sheer amount of exposure our kids get by growing up in Washington, D.C. In D.C, we literally walk on and past history daily – not only important American history but also rich local history. From the monuments and museums on the National Mall, to the C&O canal in Georgetown and Frederick Douglass’ home in Anacostia. There are very few reasons for our kids not to grow up to be well-rounded individuals due to the diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, political persuasions, food, music, art and lifestyles of the people that make up this wonderful cultural mosaic.
- It’s constantly growing: Since relocating to D.C. in 1996, I’ve watched the city transform—in many ways—while still preserving a lot of its traditional elements. D.C.’s population itself has also grown tremendously in that amount of time. Neighborhoods like the SW Waterfront, Navy Yard, Adams Morgan and Columbia Heights have benefitted from this with their addition of new bars and restaurants while keeping local favorites like Stan’s, Georgia Brown’s and Ben’s Chili Bowl. Newer venues like the Hamilton, the (beautifully rejuvenated) Howard Theater, Nationals Park, and Gateway DC play such important roles in DC’s entertainment scene just as much as older venues like 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theater, Arena Stage and Verizon Center. Many of these developments and venues have been catalyst within the city for more housing, restaurants, businesses and ultimately made our city more attractive to current and future residents.
- It’s a top destination for travel: I live in one of the world’s top destinations that people love to visit and I don’t have to travel far to attend and be a part of some of the nation’s most enticing events. There is so much to do and an abundance of opportunities to experience something new or relive memories of past great experiences—which is why I never have a problem convincing friends or family members to visit. The city offers so many unique events that speak to its culture, like the DC Jazz Festival, National Cherry Blossom Festival, H Street Festival, Passport DC, Fight Night, Dupont Circle Drag Races and so much more. There is never a dull moment in Washington, D.C.
- It’s perfect for sports enthusiasts: We have professional teams from the 6 major sports (and from World Team Tennis), Division I college sports teams and multiple amateur leagues. We don’t just watch sports in DC, we play! Whether it’s the softball or kickball leagues on the National Mall or the cycling and running groups seen all around the city, we earn our title as “Fittest City in America.” I love that our city is capable of holding—and has held—major sporting events, like the NHL Winter Classic, ACC and Big 10 Men’s Basketball Tournaments, NBA and MLB All-Star Weekends, both USMNT and USWNT soccer and World Cup matches. Even if you aren’t a huge sports fan, it’s hard not to get caught up in the local sports scene
Linnea Hegerty, Director, DC Public Library Foundation
- the creative community here – a group of ambitious, talented and generous people who understand that if others succeed, everyone succeeds;
- the unbelievable food and drinks, which have been recognized nationally and are only possible because of the diverse people who have chosen to live here and build their lives here in DC
- our libraries (I mean, I couldn’t go this without taking about our amazing libraries!) – every single one has great staff with great programs reflecting what is great about every neighborhood in D.C.
- The availability of good, local coffee basically everywhere. I plan my meetings around the nearest local coffee shop. How people survive without a good triple shot latte is beyond me.
- my unbelievable family who has made life in DC more rewarding and more challenging than I ever could have imagined – and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Jack Inslee, Founder of Full Service Radio (opening Spring 2017 at The LINE Hotel) & Producer-at-large at Heritage Radio Network
The Jungle Menu @ Thip Khao: D.C. has no shortage of authentic and delicious international eating outposts – but Thip Khao is where I find myself most often. The “Jungle Menu” is where you’ll discover treasures like alligator laab, pig’s blood sausage, grilled marinated beef tongue, and other holy-shit-that’s-spicy Laotian delights.
Late Nights @ Jimmy Valentine’s: As a NYC transplant, one of the first challenges I faced in D.C. was finding my “time to get weird” spot. Jimmy Valentine’s is that spot. If you’re lucky, you’ll walk in as Native Sun is playing “The Percolator” and by the time you’re finishing up your first root beer slushy (which has wayyyyyy too much mystery booze in it), Ayes Cold will be taking the decks and you won’t remember anything that happens afterwards.
The Nike Factory Store: The ultimate come-up: every other weekend the already criminally cheap wall of random and sometimes incredible sneakers is marked down an additional 20% – making it possible to go home with an exclusive pair of Red Velvet Nike Dunk’s for the price of a bottle of scotch. Be patient with your kick hunting and you’ll be rewarded here — the best finds are often single pairs hidden amongst the sea of reject running shoes.
Lunch @ Maketto: Maketto is always great, but l basically live there during lunch hours. What’s better than taking a meeting while enjoying a Cambodian Num Pang Sandwich? Maybe taking a meeting while enjoying a Spicy Beef Rice Bowl, depending on my mood. Maketto was my introduction to DC — I hosted a podcasting workshop there — and it holds a very special place in my heart thanks to the community that frequents its space. The “DC CREATIVE COMMUNITY” is not just a phrase or a hashtag (#ACREATIVEDC, WATTUP MORGAN?!), it’s the most supportive, talented and loving group of people I’ve ever been surrounded by. PS: After you’ve had your Maketto fill – go check out Seda Nak’s beautiful boutique shop, Shopkeepers, around the block – which also offers it’s own delicious comfort food and community vibe. <3
The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail: This one is a no-brainer. Rent a bike. Ride the trail — all the way to the National Arboretum. It’s a great and sometimes overlooked alternative to the stunning Rock Creek Trail. DC is beautiful and biking is my favorite way to take in it’s visual majesty.
Kristi Love, Designer & Stylist
- Rich African-American History and Culture: Just about every neighborhood and main corridor in DC is ripe with fascinating African-American history. D.C. owes its local culture largely to the artistic, academic and political contributions of its African American community. Home of my alma mater, Howard University, known also as “the Mecca”, DC has always been a hub for the best and the brightest of all industries. When in my studio designing dresses for DC socialites, I often think of African-American fashion designer Anne Lowe who designed Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy’s wedding gown. From architecture, to live music, to cuisine. You name it and the exciting and print of African-American history is on it. And now we have the amazing NMAAHC on the national mall where everyone can learn and experience this history.
- The Wharf: You are not a true Washingtonian if you’ve never been to The Wharf! I have so many fond memories of getting delicious fresh steamed crabs from The Wharf. Spreading out some newspaper on a picnic table at Haines Point (another favorite) eating fresh crabs drinking cold beer and watching the planes land so close you can almost see the pilots in the cockpit.
- D.C. Nightlife and Music Culture: Although, people often associate D.C. with politics what they don’t realize is that we party hard in D.C.! D.C. has a very vibrant night life, bar and live music scene. As well as a thriving DJ culture. On any given night there is always something to get into in D.C.. Musicians that perform here often comment that D.C. venues and audiences are their favorite.
- D.C. is for Lovers: D.C. is a very romantic backdrop for courtship and romance. Lazy afternoons spent picnicking in rock Creek Park, long evening walks hand-in-hand on the mall, rainy days exploring art and history together in our many national museums, decadent dinner dates in the back of dark five star restaurants, stealing kisses while listening to world-class jazz at Blues Alley and dancing closely all night long to the pulsating beats of house music legend Sam “the man” Burns at 18th St. Lounge are just a few of my favorite romantic DC moments.
- D.C. is a Beautiful City: Viewing the D.C. skyline from an airplane window seat or as I drive across the Key Bridge never gets old. The national monument and memorials are impressive structures but it’s what they’re symbolic of that makes the D.C. landscape so emotionally evoking. Whether jogging, walking or by convertible D.C. is a beautiful city to take in.
Need more reasons to love D.C.? Check out part 1…