Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s been miserable outside all week. The following reasons from 14+ of our favorite people will make you feel warm and sunny about Washington, D.C.
We asked artists, chefs, musicians, photographers, publishers, and more interesting people to list 5 people/places/things/restaurants/drinks/anything that they really love about Washington. Some squeezed in more than 5 and more is always better.
Daniela Moreira, Call Your Mother and Timber Pizza Co. Executive Chef and Co-Owner
- I love Salvadorian food, specially Don Juan in Mount Pleasant.
- Equitation Field in Rock Creek Park, I love all the hiking trails in Rock Creek, but this field (especially in the early morning when the sun rises) is so peaceful.
- I love Kilbourne Place, this street in Mount Pleasant has an amazing view of the National Cathedral. And Lamont St. for Halloween, my host family from my au pair days live there and it’s the best place to sit on the stairs and hand out treats to kids!
- Upshur Outdoor Pool in the summer. You’ll probably find me there taking a break from CYM and Timber. And Doggy Day Swim, the last day of summer when they let all the dogs go crazy jumping in the water.
- USDA Farmers Market. This is where I met Andrew with his cool Timber oven cooking pizzas!
Maps Glover, Artist
I made D.C. home 3 years ago and feel like I got married to my soulmate.
- I love that DC is a city of problem solvers.
- I love talking about politics.
- I love how progressive DC can be.
- I love that If I want I can catch the train from my house and in minutes I can stand in front of a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting.
- I love the way the sunrises peaks over the horizon and reflects off the buildings.
Makeba Clay, The Phillips Collection Chief Diversity Officer
- Visual and Performing Arts offerings. As someone who loves curiosity and engagement, I absolutely cherish all of the creative options in this city. From the Kennedy Center, to the Smithsonian museums, to The Phillips Collection (of course) and beyond, visitors have so many culturally rich options to choose from here. And they’re generally FREE…yes, even the Phillips! You can definitely scratch your art itch with the plethora of programmatic offerings for youth and adults all around town.
- Interesting Intersections. Not street intersections (although I do love the Marvin Gaye mural on 7th and S St., NW), but instead the academic, intellectual, and political intersections of D.C. As a place that’s home to native residents, an international community, and so many colleges and universities, think-tanks, embassies, and governmental offices, this place is a hub of knowledge. The strategic partnerships that exist here create provocative events and you can always find lectures, book talks, films, and all kinds of beautifully nerdy things happening. Check out places like Halcyon and Eaton Workshop to get a sense of what I mean.
- Neighborhoods. Speaking of intersections, I absolutely adore exploring D.C.’s various neighborhoods. However, the sights, sounds, and tastes of Chinatown have been especially appealing. Perhaps it’s the combination of museums, entertainment, architecture, and food, but that area is definitely a favorite. I’ve also recently been enjoying all that H Street has to offer. Have you been over there recently?! You can see a show at The Atlas, grab a bite to eat at [any choice of spots], book a karaoke room at SingSing, and even buy groceries! And let’s not forget the Anacostia Arts Center – Mahogany Books is a hidden gem.
- Food. Sometimes I don’t want to cook the groceries I have, but instead just sit and eat. That’s when I stop at the no-nonsense Florida Avenue Grill or Ethiopian delights of Dukem. If I want to get super fancy, I may go to Kith and Kin, Hazel, Fiola Mare, or Convivial. Thinking back to the international communities here, whatever kind of food you want in whatever price range, you can absolutely find it in DC.
- Traditions. Even in the face of so much neighborhood change, there are also some traditions that have stood the test of time. I like knowing that there are ZooLights at the National Zoo, and events such as Adam’s Morgan Day and the Funk Parade on U Street. All around good times!
Al Goldberg, Mess Hall Founder, PayItFurloughed.com co-founder
- Our city is a hybrid of “Washington” and “D.C.” I love that we have the personality “D.C.” to offset the suits and staffers of “Washington.” To me, the political scene is tolerable only because it is balanced by beloved Northeast breweries and distilleries; independent manufacturers like Jon Wye; street artists like Kelly Towles and No Kings Collective; the passionate chef/maker community at Mess Hall; iconic music venues like 9:30 Club; and talented curators like A Creative DC and Shop Made In DC. The #DCAF mindset is everything.
- Well the FOOD, of course. Independently-owned restaurants are so central to our dining scene, we (food operators) have been able to stave off the proliferation of shitty chain restaurants and their unlimited bread-sticks. I love, love, love our dining scene and its diversity.
- Small town = easy access. I love that D.C. is super walkable, and you can get just about anywhere for $5 or less via Metro, Car2Go, rideshare aps, Capital Bikeshare, or a death-scooter. As an aside, I’m very partial to born-and-bred D.C. taxi drivers who have been at it for 40+ years; a seemingly dying breed among incompetent VA/MD Uber drivers.
- Raising my kids in D.C. I love raising my kids among a diverse population, and a city pace. D.C. boasts infinite exhibits and activities to keep things eternally interesting. When we travel with our city kids, they innately take to the streets and they “go” without fear or hesitation. When we return, we’re welcomed home by the iconic Monuments, and that is special to our family too.
- The Potomac. I was asked to join the GW Rowing Team as a coxswain in 1993 and immediately fell in love with the mighty Potomac. Being down by the water was an addiction throughout college and beyond. There’s really nothing like being on the river at 5:45am. Floating amid the fog when the sun rises, while few others are awake, is the best time to be there. I still enjoy attending regattas, renting a kayak to paddle above the Three Sisters rocks, and even peering down at the water from the Kennedy Center.
Katy McKegney, Washington City Paper Publisher
- Parkway Deli’s Matzo Ball Soup. I just had the flu. This gave me life. Highly recommend if battling a cold this winter.
- Zengo’s Hip Hop Tuesday with Katherine H. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.
- The way the 2020 candidate announcements seem to reverberate across the city. It’s like a choose your own adventure novel writing itself.
- The Anthem’s spring line up. A+. See you at Brother’s Osborne.
- The Washington City Paper’s reporting. Our team’s dedication to seeking out truths across the city is unparalleled. Not only do our reporters get unique scoops, we host the only democratically voted upon ‘Best Of’ in the city. (Voting’s only just started so be sure to nominate and vote for your ‘Best Of’ picks!)
Alicia Sanchez Gill, Collective Action for Safe Spaces Interim Executive Director
- The city of a thousand marches. D.C.’s got a deep history of activism coupled with many generations of local organizing. D.C. isn’t all Capitol Hill and federal legislation, though there’s a lot of that too! There are communities who have been here, working every day doing hyper-local work to ensure everyone has access to safe, affordable housing, ensuring communities of color aren’t disproportionately policed and incarcerated in the District, reducing food deserts in the city and helping to make public spaces and nightlife safer for everyone. I have never seen a place with a higher concentration of compassionate, generous, justice-seeking people. Ever.
- Rock Creek Park for those moments when you want to feel like you’re one with nature but don’t want to be further than a carshare ride away. I’d add the Tidal Basin (especially during the Cherry Blossom Festival) and Georgetown’s Waterfront.
- Howard University. Howard University is what brought me to Washington, D.C. seventeen years ago, and everywhere you look in D.C., you see remnants of Howard’s past, present and future. From the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dunbar High School’s namesake, to Kamala Harris, to Ta-Nehisi Coates, all of your favs and your favs’ favs are Bison. Howard University represents the brilliance, diversity and resilience of the Black diaspora. HU (you know!)!
- D.C.’s food scene is incredible. When I moved here in 2001 as a college student we had amazing Ethiopian food, Sankofa, half smokes at Ben’s Chili Bowl, Soul Vegetarian’s (RIP) vegan chik’n nuggets, a few Central America and Caribbean take-out places, La Bamba Sandwich shop (RIP), Howard Deli (RIP), Tryst, jumbo slices and the ubiquitous D.C. carry-out. Today, I still go to some of those places but now, I add into my rotation: Colada Shop, Little Coco’s, Calabash Tea and Tonic, Salt and Pepper Grill, Heat Da Spot Café, &Pizza (where my wife and I got married!), Potters House Café, Maketto, Soup Up, Sakuramen, NuVegan Café (formerly Everlasting Life and Woodlands Vegan), Queen of Sheba, Pica Taco, Ghibellina, and the list goes on and on. You can get almost anything your heart desires, from falafel to James Beard Award-winning Himitsu. Nowadays I hang out at Eaton Hotel, and Marvin—a slightly more chill version of the Habana Village, Commonshare and Timehri days of my youth.
- Free Museums! Fine art, culture and history, science, we have it all. I’d start with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and apparently, I’m not alone. NMAAHC has drawn more than 5 million visitors since its opening in the fall of 2016. My other favs are the National Museum of the American Indian (I call it the Native People’s Museum) and the Anacostia Museum. It is incredible to have so much history, art and culture at your fingertips for free.
Gary Williams Jr, Creative Theory Agency Co-Founder
- Mumbo sauce. Elevates any meal. I put it on everything.
- The monuments, museums, and memorials. Sometimes living in D.C. you can forget how much history surrounds us. We really live in a beautiful city.
- The creative community. Some of the best people I know in D.C. I have met through the creative community. Genuine people who care about D.C., but even more about the people of D.C.
- Location is everything. D.C. is amazing, but it’s also great to get away at times and with VA and MD so close it’s easy to escape to a slower pace for a weekend. The Shenandoah Valley is only an hour and change away. Great Falls is even closer. Great way to rejuvenate and appreciate the city that much more.
- The Obamas. Shouldn’t have to say much more, but they have a home here and occasionally pop up in the city. This honestly should be number 1. They are royalty!
Nicole Capó Martínez, She Loves Me Retail Manager, Curandera Club Founder, Artist and Self-Published Author
- The Girl Gangs. After 11+ years in D.C. I am #blessed to be surrounded by the most incredible women, from my GW-college-days girlfriends and #GALENTINES (who for reasons I don’t understand still choose to hang out with me) to the amazing community of women running their own biz, making beautiful art, and generally creating a culture of beauty, acceptance, and magic every single day in this city. Also AOC is here now and that’s pretty f*cking cool.
- The Community. I was stuck in D.C. when Hurricane Maria ravaged my home island of Puerto Rico and I have never felt so powerless before or since. But what made it bearable was the support we received from the lovely folks in this city — space donations for Curandera Club fundraisers (s/o to The Lemon Collective and Take Care!), generous donations of profits from local makers to charitable orgs doing #werk on PR recovery, and new D.C.-based Puerto Rican friends (hey Trim Salon <3). It reminded me all the ways that the District can feel like a second home to those of us who choose to live here.
- The Free Shit. Not just the Smithsonians (which if you’re not going to regularly, what’s wrong with you??), but this city really is a creative and cultural capital — I always tell people who are new to D.C. that if you’re bored here, it’s because you choose to be. From the Little Free Libraries scattered across the city (no, I won’t tell you which one I always score great books from, sorry) to literally hundreds of free or close-to-free events, happenings, and hangs in some really cool spaces year-round, the only reason to stay in is because you want to (s/o to 730DC + BYT + A Creative DC for keeping me in the know).
- The Not-Free Shit. Okay but if you’re really looking to #TreatYoSelf there’s also plenty of opportunities to do just that — think Transformer Auction/Gala/Afterparty which last year turned into an EPIC late-night dance sesh at the LINE DC, some really incredible prix fixe situations (Komi Komi Komi Komi), and TONS of local shopping (including this rly cool new spot called She Loves Me, have you heard of it??).
- More Community. Honestly this is all I ever want to talk about when I talk about D.C. — as someone who sometimes makes shit, the fact that I am constantly surrounded by other people who make shit and who support each other in all of their/our wild and wacky ideas is incredible. D.C. doesn’t have potential; it already is a really cool and funky town to be in. There isn’t a day I walk down the street without running into a familiar and friendly face, or receive a sweet little love note or thumbs up in my DMs, or get excited about a new collaboration of some kind. D.C. is a city that truly feels like a small town and I, for one, absolutely love that.
Rafael Bejarano, The Washington Ballet Studio Company Dancer
I came to Washington, D.C. when I was 15-years-old, didn’t speak the language, didn’t know anyone, and in order to learn another language and adapt to a new life, you have to go out.
- I love Washington and it’s people because they speak what they think, they welcome you no matter where are you from, your history, and try to help you get involved, that’s why I call Washington, D.C. home.
- There is so much to do around town. As a dancer I love art and history, and DC has so much history and art all over the place. You go to the National Mall and you’ll find that all the museums are free. I’ve visited each one more than three times! Art is not only in that area, Washington is home of The Washington Ballet, where they perform at the Kennedy Center. We perform all kinds of dance…. classical ballet, contemporary, modern, anything that you’d like. We also perform Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker at The Warner Theater, a local tradition all of December, perfect for the holidays.
- One of my favorite places is Georgetown. The first time I went and walked around it reminded me of Europe, with this style that you can recognize everywhere you go, full of unique restaurants and different shops, perfect place to walk and get distracted for a bit. Also it has a beautiful view from the waterfront, you can see the Kennedy Center, Virginia and other parts of the city.
- Dupont Circle, an area full of life 24/7. You can find festivals during the weekend when the summer is at its peak; a wonderful place to go hang out with friends at any time!
- You want be around Latin culture, go to Columbia Heights! Whenever I go there, it reminds me of my home country, México. If you walk around you’ll find several shops and also many good restaurants!
Georgie Payne, Exhibitions and Programs Manager at Transformer and Co-Founder/Editor of DIRT
- The Outdoor Space. Rock Creek Park for great adventures; Meridian Hill for taking my dog to play; the National Mall for night time monument walks; and Fort Reno for music in the summer and a lot of time skipping school in high school (sorry!); HONORABLE MENTION to my favorite hiking spot outside of D.C. – Billy Goat Trails A & B.
- The Art Community. D.C. has such an amazing and tight-knit arts community. I have had the great pleasure of working at Transformer full time since 2015 and it is the perfect combination of work and play. I get to work every day with my friends while meeting and supporting incredible artists locally, nationally and internationally. I love being able to bring artists to D.C. and introduce them to this incredible place and all the artists and arts organizations that are here. [We also throw the best parties and have another one coming up at The Line on Valentines Day!] I am also am the co-founder and editor of DIRT, an online arts publication based here in the DMV, and have really enjoyed being able to offer a platform to showcase artists and writers to a national audience while collaborating with an insanely talented group of individuals.
- Friends & Family. I grew up in D.C. so I love being able to hang out with my huge D.C.-based family and old friends.
- The Favorite Spots. Comet Ping Pong for the pizza, music, and all the fun times; Vace’s for the PERFECT slice; Moby Dick for great kabobs; Pho Viet for when it’s freezing outside and for your hangover; Keren for the best Ethiopian breakfast; Suns Cinema for late night drinks; and the staff cafeteria at the NGA for the ultimate $7 buffet with the best view.
- The Music. D.C. has always had great music, but there are a few songs that always remind me of home and of why I love DC – Mambo Sauce’s “Welcome to DC,” The Magnetic Fields’ “Washington, D.C.,” Gil Scott Heron’s “Washington, D.C.,” Wale’s “Uptown Roamers,” E.U.’s “Da’ Butt,” The Evens’ “Mt. Pleasant Isn’t,” and The Junkyard Band’s “Sardines.”
Rah Foard, Photographer/Videographer and Heather Mae, Songwriter
- As a queer couple, half femme and half gender non conforming, we feel totally accepted in our city.
- Date nights playing cards at the counter of Sally’s Middle Name on H St. Good coffee, yummy plates, great vibe.
- We love our neighborhood! Trinidad is the best. Seriously. We don’t care what you say.
- Eating Bun’d Up at Union Market. Serious food magic happening over there.
- Heather is a social justice songwriter and Rah is a photographer. D.C. provides an awesome unique experience for those who want to combine art and activism.
Alicia Horton, Thrive DC Executive Director
- Farmers Markets. They are everywhere. now! Fresh, wholesome, often organic, locally grown produce right in your neighborhood.
- Go-go music. There is no other city with the rich tradition of Go-go music like D.C. Where else can a full band entertain the masses with only upside down paint buckets?
- Rock Creek Park. Verdant, beautiful and spans the city with many little areas for quiet reflection, walking or exercise. The zoo, Walker’s Mill, the tennis courts, and stables, the Nature Center and more… the park offers so much to DC residents.
- Carter Baron Ampitheatre. Host of wonderful performers from Smokey Robinson to Shakespeare in the Park. Mosquitoes be damned! The Carter Baron provided a lovely, affordable outing for the entire family.
- The Wharf. Crabs, crabs, and more crabs, The Wharf is more than a place to buy seafood it is tradition, family, funky smells and full of life.
Carl Maynard, Walk With Locals Founder
- La Betty. The Velazquez family of Baked & Wired and A Baked Joint, is due to open their third location in the city and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Serving up home comfort favorites, this spot will surely be at the top of everyone’s list. What I love most about what their locations offer is a sense of home. The family and staff alike are across the board always so friendly and welcoming. Adding a location for dinner will surely see those same traits spread to La Betty. It’s been sometime since I’ve anticipated a restaurants opening and have no doubt it would have been worth the wait.
- Small Planes Coffee. From the team behind Peregrine Espresso, Small Planes sees another local roaster added to the mix in D.C. being that for a while Peregrine at Union Market was the closest coffee shop to me when I first moved to the city, it has remained a favorite of mine. Ahead of my wife and my wedding last year, we had the chance to have a private cupping hosted by their head roaster Evan Howe and we ended up from that day selecting a roast to be served at our wedding. We really wanted to infuse a lot of local aspects in to our wedding and having Small Planes be a part of it was really awesome for us. We also got the chance to partner with them on a walk in the spring last year, which was great to be able to introduce our community to such an amazing team making amazing coffee,
- Sunday morning hill repeats. I started waking up on Sundays to go run 15th St NW parallel to Meridian Hill Park. I know for a majority Sunday is a day of rest or perhaps a slower start but I started to think of the day as the first chance to get my week started on the right foot. I don’t go crazy but I commit to 30 minutes. I mix it up from time to time depending on the weather or my mood but Sundays at 8am are really special to me now.
- 202 Film Collective. Founded by two guys who met at Walk With Locals, both realized they had a shared love of film photography and launched their own community with a focus on film. We had the pleasure of partnering with them on a walk and were able to get KODAK involved. At first, I was absolutely in love with the idea that this new community had spawned out of WWL but then it came to mean even more to me when I picked up a film camera for the first time in March of 2018. Since then I think I’ve picked up my DLSR about 26 times. I would encourage anyone even the slightest bit interested in film to check them out and join them at their events. They really do an amazing job of making everyone feel welcomed and everyone who goes, is very willing to help anyone learn their way around a camera. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.
- Book stores around H Street. The only neighborhood I’ve ever lived in DC, it took some time for us to get a local book store. Now with Solid State Books and Politics and Prose, there’s no need to order a book online ever again. Even better at times you can find a sign copy of the book you’re looking for at Politics & Prose. A nice benefit of Solid State is a community table to get work done at, as well as the coffee bar offerings.
Jessica Sandhu, Yoga Teacher and Health Coach
- So many interesting people from all over the world. This city IS the place to be and people are drawn here.
- Super walkable. My ability to walk to basically every corner of the city (when you make the time to do so!) Even when you don’t have the time, getting somewhere is relatively easy with your legs or bike.
- Very intellectual city. I love the variation of institutions, universities, industries, government, art scene, cafe scene, music and again, the diverse people. Always learning and sharing insight when meeting new people.
- Films. I love that most art house and indie films make their way here. It is a HUGE draw for me. Whenever I consider possibly moving (this is my twentieth year living in D.C.), I think about how I would miss the diverse range of films that come to here (no lie).
- Nature. From Rock Creek to Rose Park to the National Mall to the Potomac River, there is a lot of nature to explore. I like to run during the nicer weather and to be able to throw some sneakers on and hit the pavement with greenery and water so close in any direction is awesome.