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The Best New Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Right Now

By Lola Méndez

Jan 5, 2022

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 The Kimpton Banneker is among the crop of new lodgings in D.C.

Courtesy of the Kimpton Banneker

The Kimpton Banneker is among the crop of new lodgings in D.C.

Level up your next visit to the nation’s capital and check out the exciting influx of new hotels, restaurants, bars, and books.

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Washington, D.C. is so much more than the seat of the federal government. The city is jam-packed with cool people, major cultural institutions, cuisine from around the globe, and nature-centric experiences. The DMV (the acronym that covers D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) continues to boom with new experiences and venues for locals, first-time visitors, and those who’ve made the journey to the capital countless times. Here’s what’s going on in D.C. this winter.

New hotels to check out (and check into!)

Kimpton Banneker Hotel

  • Neighborhood: Downtown
  • Book Now: From $197/night, expedia.com

This boutique hotel on 16th St. NW features funky decorative accents, such as black butterflies emerging from the walls and other edgy artwork offset by the warmth of the black, brown, and navy palette and wood furniture. Up on the hotel’s roof, watch the sun set over the Washington Monument and the White House with a cocktail in hand at Lady Bird, a year-round bar and open-air deck with iconic D.C. views. For dinner, reserve a table at Le Sel, an intimate and relaxed French bistro.

Lyle’s is the perfect spot for a nightcap.

Lyle Washington D.C. 

  • Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
  • Book Now: From $206/night, expedia.com

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Located in Dupont Circle near historic colorful row houses is the second U.S. property from the Lore Group (along with the Riggs Hotel, also in Washington). The guest rooms, with white upholstery and linens offset by warm wood deco-influenced furniture and parquet floors, are comfortably elegant; some feature kitchenettes. The showstopping design element in the guest rooms are the headboards fashioned from crosscut tree trunks, a dramatic touch of nature in the refined space. The hotel’s namesake restaurant, Lyle’s, helmed by executive chef Nicholas Sharpe, serves seasonal American dishes such as smoked duck croquettes and lamb meatballs, in a dining room kitted out with Japanese-style lantern fixtures (vintage Herman Miller), cork-lined walls hung with contemporary art, and a fantastic series of connected white sofa seating down the center of the room.

The Ven at Embassy Row 

  • Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
  • Book Now: From $181/night, expedia.com

The Ven, also in Dupont Circle, is Marriott International’s latest contribution to Washington. The visual mood of the hotel is inspired by Scandinavian design, as in the guest rooms’ suede headboards in a rich Swedish blue, and in the lobby, elegant stools and curved sofas in the palest blond tones. The hotel’s art gallery offers rotating exhibitions with art selected by a local curator. The rooftop pool and bar overlook Embassy Row’s stately mansions. The hotel’s Scandinavian restaurant, Fred and Stilla, offers indoor and outdoor dining.

New D.C. restaurants to plan a trip around

Daru 

  • Neighborhood: H Street corridor
  • Make a reservation: darudc.com

Daru is spicing up the H Street corridor with incredible Indian tastes. The menu, which riffs on casual Indian snack foods and desserts, is complemented by a menu of spicy cocktails with ingredients like cardamom, turmeric, and persimmon. The cuisine and cocktail combination creates an explosion of flavor you won’t soon forget. Don’t skip the jackfruit phulka tacos or paneer pesto tikka.

Michele’s

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Michele’s, in the downtown district’s hip Eaton Hotel, is overseen by chef Matt Baker, who named the spot after his mother. After his celebrated success at Gravitas, he’s now cooking up an extraordinary blend of French traditions and the cuisines of his Gulf Coast upbringing. (Baker grew up amid the myriad flavors of Houston—Mexican and Vietnamese influences show up a lot—and a mother from Louisiana.) Expect seafood served from the 10-seat raw bar, as well as dishes like uni custard with Maryland crab, celery root tatin, and a roast chicken served with chimichurri sauce and its head and feet still attached.

Come early and stay late at these new bars

O.K.P.B.

  • Neighborhood: Mount Pleasant 

The city’s newest speakeasy, O.K.P.B. is entered through an unmarked door on Mt. Pleasant St. Go down a flight of stairs to a basement door where an O.K.P.B. floormat signals your arrival. The handwritten menu features a regular list of cocktails plus a few inspired by the bartender’s whim. Booth- and bar-seating in the dimly lit and often-crowded bar is first come, first served. Be sure to scope out the restrooms, decorated to look like a home library, and with ceilings papered with old cocktail menus.

Get your fill of Southern food at Jane Jane.

Jane Jane

  • Neighborhood: Logan Circle

Jane Jane, a homey bar on 14th St. NW, offers well-crafted classic cocktails paired with Southern-inspired bar snacks like spiced mixed nuts, and pimento cheese with club crackers. Visually, the room has the kitschy, comfortable vibe of someone’s ’70s basement bar: plaid-patterned mustard and indigo tiled floors, wood-paneled walls, plus vintage wallpaper and light fixtures.

Read before you go

Chocolate City: A History of Race and Democracy in the Nation’s Capital by Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove

Buy now: UNC Press, $28.00, bookshop.org

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For its entire history, Washington, D.C. has been and continues to be the stage on which the troubled drama of race and democracy has been acted out. This new book traces the city’s transformation to its modern diverse identity through periods of enslavement, segregation, Civil Rights, the war on drugs, and ongoing gentrification.

Coming in 2022

Washington, D.C. looks forward to a celebratory 2022 thanks to major milestones, including the 160th anniversary of Emancipation Day on April 16 and the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial celebration in March. The newest phase of District Wharf, a mixed-use space waterfront development, will be completed in 2022 with a marina, offices, residential and retail offerings, and parks. The National Park Service’s rehabilitation project on the Lincoln Memorial is nearly complete ahead of that monument’s 2022 centennial celebration, as is the Wall of Remembrance adjoining the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

COVID changes

The city is open without restrictions and welcomes travelers. However, at the time of publication in early January 2022, it had some stringent regulations in place. Masks are required indoors through January 31 (at least) and from January 15, proof of vaccination is required at indoor gatherings. 

Throughout the city, businesses have implemented enhanced health protocols and are allowed to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter. All National Mall and National Park Service sites require face coverings both indoors and at crowded outdoor sites. For more information, visit coronavirus.dc.gov.

>> Next: The AFAR Guide to Washington, D.C.

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