I’m guilty of oftentimes ignoring the great city that I call home. It’s not from a lack of love or admiration; ever since I first moved here in 2000 I have found myself falling deeper in love with Washington, DC every year. But especially in recent years, I find myself all too often ignoring the many great sights and attractions that draw visitors from all over the world. I’ll fly down to Antarctica, but you won’t find be on the National Mall during a spring weekend. That makes me sad, so a couple of years ago I decided to try to do and see more in my own region – to enjoy all that makes DC, Maryland and Virginia great. A recent celebration made for the perfect excuse to plan a fun and relaxing Washington DC luxury weekend; not a Staycation really, more like a Nearcation. Choosing an exceptional hotel and complementing it with fun things to do and delicious bites to eat, it really was the perfect couple of days. Since so many people ask me for DC recommendations I thought I’d share what I did over this Washington DC luxury weekend more as a guide, since it really is very specific to the things I personally love doing and seeing. DC is a great city though to fine-tune your time to your exact specifications. There’s just so much to see and do, surely any type of traveler will be happy, but here’s a brief look at what I call the perfect weekend in the nation’s capital.
What to do
DC has no shortage of museums and famous sites. From the massive Smithsonian collection of museums, to smaller not as well known sites, weeks could be spent here without repetition of activities. I chose a couple of places though that I always “meant” to visit, but somehow never found the time, starting with George Washington’s estate along the Potomac River, Mount Vernon. The plantation is right next to DC in Virginia and for years I’ve passed the sign leading to it, always meaning to stop but never actually managing to do so. That’s why I made it our first weekend stop, buying tickets not only for the standard tour, but also purchasing a special tour only available on Saturdays – All the President’s Pups walking tour. As a proud owner of three rescued Huskies, my love and adoration of canines knows no bounds and so when I saw this special themed tour all about the history of Mount Vernon’s dogs, I couldn’t resist.
What surprised me most about visiting the home of our first President is just how massive the grounds are. This isn’t a standard house tour, there’s a lot more to the overall experience and an entire day could easily be spent exploring the beautiful nooks and crannies of the property. I didn’t have all day though, so I joined the All The President’s Pups walking tour to not just learn more about the dogs, but the estate as well. On a beautiful spring Saturday morning in DC, there was no better place for me to be. The weather was as perfect as it gets for us, and spending an hour exploring the grounds with a group of dogs was one of the best ideas I’ve had in a long time. Tour participants are welcome to bring their pups, making this an interactive tour that’s perfect for just about anyone. During the hour-long walk I learned more about Washington, his love of dogs and the history and importance of dogs on the estate. But more than the great information, it was all about seeing areas of the estate otherwise impossible to visit, all in the companionship of man’s best friend.
The weekend was a nice mix of sightseeing, relaxing and eating, so it wasn’t until Sunday when the second and final, sightseeing attraction made it onto my luxury Washington itinerary. I remember when the Newseum used to be housed in a tired location across the river in Rosslyn before making the epic, multi-year move to its new and infinitely more impressive location on Pennsylvania Avenue next to the National Mall in downtown Washington, DC. As the name suggests, the Newseum is an interactive museum sharing the history of news and journalism throughout the ages. It’s also routinely named not only one of the best museums in the city, but also in the country, which is why I am so embarrassed I had never before toured it. That was rectified when I spent a fun afternoon exploring this light and bright institution devoted to the Fourth Estate.
After entering the museum the docent told me that the tickets were good for two days, which at the time seemed overly optimistic, but almost immediately I understood why. The Newseum is massive and inside the beautifully designed interior is more information than any human could possible process in just one visit. No, I see visiting the Newseum as a series of baby steps, tackling new areas each time. Enjoying prime real estate on Pennsylvania Avenue, a visit to the Newseum starts on the terrace, with incredible views of the Capitol Building and putting into perspective what the Newseum is really all about.
More than just chronicling the history of journalism, the Newsweum is meant to educate visitors about the importance of the news media, especially throughout American history. Through a series of amazingly well-done exhibits, the Newseum demonstrates the crucial role a free press plays in a democratic society. These thoughts have not always been popular with politicians, making the location of the museum within sight of the Capitol that much more impactful.
Where to stay
The central element to any great Nearcation in my opinion is the hotel, and in Washington we thankfully have no shortage of excellent, luxury hotels. But for a fantastic mix of modern, elegant design with outstanding service and quality, I chose the Georgetown-located Four Seasons Washington. This iconic hotel in DC’s most sought after neighborhood recently underwent a massive, $13 million room enhancement, refreshing what was already an incredibly luxurious hotel experience. Since it was my partner’s birthday, I decided to fully embrace the Four Seasons experience for the 24 hours we spent there, booking spa appointments, meals and just enjoying everything this remarkable property has to offer.
It’s hard not to smile and feel impressed walking through the front doors of a hotel as luxuriously appointed as the Four Seasons Washington, the fresh-cut flowers and elegant lounge both offering hints to the high levels of service and comfort found within. Lobbies are fine, but the rooms are what matter most and in this case, I immediately realized I had made the perfect choice for our Washington DC luxury weekend. The enhancement of the hotel’s 222 rooms sought to design simple and uncluttered spaces that were refined but not ostentatious. The net result was a room I didn’t want to leave and in fact I didn’t really, instead opting to lounge and do little more than relax.
As a nice little surprise, I also booked a spa service for my partner so he could enjoy a relaxing afternoon in pampered comfort. From my experience this is one area where the Four Seasons excels, whether it’s in Hawaii, the Serengeti or Washington, DC. It’s the combination of services offered, ingredients used and expert aestheticians that make their spa experiences amongst my most favorite. It was also the perfect way to relax in the early afternoon and discard a week’s worth of stress in 90 far too short minutes.
The Four Seasons Washington is also a great choice thanks to its location. Georgetown isn’t only the oldest neighborhood in Washington, but it’s our most posh and exclusive. This is where you go to see and be seen, as well as to enjoy the best high-end shopping and dining in the area. Personally, I love just strolling the old cobblestone walks of Georgetown, veering away from the touristy areas and wandering amongst the leafy, stately homes of this beautiful part of town. The feeling here is genteel and refined, it’s our version of the New Orleans Garden District and as such, there’s no better time to explore it than on a sunny Saturday afternoon in the spring, one of Washington’s best seasons.
Where to eat
When I first moved to Washington, DC, we were not a city known for its food. In fact, people visited in spite of the food offerings, which trended along the 1960s steakhouse feel. But in the last decade or so, young and innovative chefs have all flocked to DC, creating a new and incredibly vibrant food scene in the process. Today we’re named one of the best cities in the country for our restaurants and cafes; a fact that still shocks me to be honest. What we enjoy to eat is an incredibly personal experience, but for me it’s enjoying a few DC classics along with the more modern fine dining elements. That’s why on Saturday lunch was at a place I’ve been frequenting for 14 years, one that has several locations around the DMV and has always been a special treat.
Moby Dick has been serving up authentic, Iranian and Middle Eastern cuisine for years and from my own experience, it serves the best in town. There are plenty of options, but my go-to is the grilled steak, or Kubideh, over buttery rice that is out of this world amazing. Sometimes luxury is simply reconnecting with those timeless places we love, and that was the case for us at Moby Dick.
Birthday dinners, however, are a different story and since my partner’s favorite meal is an expertly done steak, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to eat at the critically acclaimed Bourbon Steak located in the Four Seasons. Honestly, I would have picked this as our celebratory meal regardless of where we spent the night, but being able to amble back upstairs following the generous portions at dinner was a nice added benefit. Bourbon Steak brings the signature cooking style of James Beard award-winning chef Michael Mina to Georgetown and is a restaurant I had long wanted to try for myself. Course after course it slowly dawned on me that Bourbon Steak isn’t your average steak house. Flavor combinations rarely seen in a steak restaurant found their way into the starters, beautifully presented with thoughtful and attentive service. Every course from the start to the main steak experience itself and of course the desserts managed to surprise me not only by how delicious everything was, but also how creative the dishes were. Bourbon Steak is routinely named one of the best restaurants in Georgetown and after spending a few hours eating with them I can understand why.
One aspect of food culture that DC has always done well is brunch, whether it’s a bottomless Mimosa experience in Dupont, the retro-American classics of Ted’s Bulletin or the over-the-top, no holds barred decadent brunch at the Four Seasons. Since this was a weekend all about relaxation and pampering, I naturally went with the most extreme option, which was also located at my hotel, the massive brunch at the Four Seasons Washington. If you think you know what a proper brunch should look like, think again as the Four Seasons has taken the concept and exploded it into a culinary phenomenon that will guarantee you won’t need to eat again for at least a few days.
This is what my own personal Washington DC luxury weekend looked like – I’m sure yours will be different. My city has so much to offer visitors and taking the time to better explore it, from Mount Vernon to the Four Seasons in Washington, was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a very long time.