Sponsored Content

A Musician’s Guide to Washington D.C.

Where to go, eat, and listen, according to local artist Neffy.

A night time view of the exterior of the French café Le Diplomate on 14th Street in Washington D.C.’s live music corridor.

Le Diplomate on 14th Street is a slice of French café culture in the heart of D.C.’s live music corridor.

Courtesy of washington.org.

Washington, D.C. is where politics and art mingle, from the landmark museums that flank houses of government to the intimate music venues dotting the city. The District’s cafés, clubs, restaurants, and record stores (often tucked away from the well-trodden paths near the marble facades of the capital’s iconic institutions) are where local musicians find community while honing their craft.

One emerging talent, the singer-songwriter Neffy, embodies the city’s legacy of creating a distinctive sound entirely her own. Before winning the 2021 NPR Tiny Desk Contest, she grew up 20 minutes from the capital and was involved in choir, theater, and dance from a young age. Her earliest memories are of performing at D.C.’s iconic venues, like the Lincoln Theatre, which set the stage for a career deeply influenced by the District’s rich arts and culture.

For visitors, exploring the thriving music scene offers a genuine connection to the heart and soul of D.C. We caught up with Neffy to find out how she’d spend an ideal day exploring the city that shaped her music.

What’s one place in D.C. you’d recommend to any music fan?

The National Museum of African American History and Culture. It has a great music and Black entertainment section. They have Chuck Berry’s car, original instruments, and an interactive section that exemplifies the hip-hop and rap scene. Black people have pioneered pretty much every genre of music. That museum does a very good job at, not just highlighting, but paying homage to those who are at the forefront of rock-and-roll to country to folk. I definitely learned some things that I didn’t know.

The sign on the exterior of the music venue Anthem in Washington D.C.'s Wharf district.

The Anthem is a beacon for music lovers in D.C.'s Wharf district.

Courtesy of washington.org

How would you spend an ideal day in D.C.?

I’d wake up early to beat the crowds, then I’d go to two or three museums on the National Mall. My favorite is the National Museum of Natural History. The National Gallery of Art is another one. Afterward, I’d have lunch at A. Litteri near Union Market. It’s an Italian grocery store and a sub shop. It’s really good. Next, I’d see a few friends in Woodley Park or NoMa. Then, I’d have dinner, either at Le Diplomate or Lauriol Plaza. Finally, I’d try to see a show at the Anthem.

Any other favorite spots you can recommend?

Politics and Prose is one that I really love, as it has a great message and ethos. They have a lot of locations now. And Byrdland Records, the vinyl record store. I love Teasim, which is local to D.C. They have such a huge variety of tea. I’ve been going there since I was a little girl and that has not changed! Also, The REACH. It’s part of the Kennedy Center and I’ve seen some great shows there.

Washington D.C Singer-songwriter Neffy wearing a jean jacket and jean pants standing in front of plants and white house.

Neffy, singer-songwriter, and 2021 NPR Tiny Desk Contest winner.

Courtesy of Neffy

Where should music lovers stay in D.C.?

I recently stayed at a CitizenM hotel in D.C. because I did a cool residency with them about three years ago. They have locations everywhere, but I like the one in D.C. a lot.

Which local musicians should visitors try to see while in D.C.?

I love Everyday Everybody. They’re probably my favorite band. Oh He Dead is another fantastic band out of D.C. There are a lot of talented artists that come from here.

What has been your favorite venue to perform at in D.C.?

Definitely the Tiny Desk in the NPR headquarters. I still can’t believe I got to do that. The world’s best musicians have performed at Bob Boilen’s desk—everyone from Adele to Mac Miller. That was just such a life-affirming moment for me.

To learn more about how to experience music in DC, visit washington.org

From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR