Washington, D.C. is a three-hour train ride from Philly and yet I’ve only visited three times over the years –in high school, when a friend lived in the city and last time for my trip to South Africa (the award ticket originated at IAD-Washington Dulles airport). D.C. really is a wonderful city with so many great FREE things to do. So when I read about the travel blogger meet up called #BloggersTakeTheCity, I thought it was time to go back to D.C. and see what’s new. There’s a lot going on in the arts and culture scene that reminded me that D.C. is so much more than crazy politics we hear every day.
My weekend in D.C. would begin Friday night and end Sunday at lunch and in between that time, I was busy, so busy exploring the city’s art and culture scene, well only scratching the surface. Just like the Louvre with eight miles of art that you can never really fully see in one visit, let alone five visits, my D.C. art experience was just the appetizer to remind me to come back and visit more.
Special Thanks to our fearless leader, Nicki of EatLiveTravelDrink for deciding we should meet up in real life and have fun exploring her city. She, along with Kate @washingtondc, curated a wonderful Art, Food and Fun weekend for our group of twelve travel bloggers from around the U.S. (New Hampshire, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., Philly (me), Chicago, New York and California).
The short version art weekend in D.C. itinerary was created for travel industry professionals (writers, travel agents, meeting planners, etc.) to give them a familiarization (FAM) of the current art attractions in the city. Read more below for summary and a photo from each stop. Look for posts in the upcoming weeks with more detail and photos.
- Fairmont D.C. Hotel Welcome
- Silent Disco at the Embassy Row Hotel Rooftop
- Art Exhibits at The Renwick Gallery (Parallax Gap ceiling installation plus temporary exhibits and permanent collection)
- National Gallery Sculpture Garden
- Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
- “Trace” by Ai Wei Wei
- “Wish Tree for Washington, DC” by Yoko Ono
- Lunch at Hill Country BBQ (a taste of Texas in D.C.)
- National Building Museum (“The Hive”)
- Union Market
- Rum Tasting at Cotton & Reed
- Dinner at Carmine’s NYC in D.C.
- Moonlight Monument Trolley Tour
- Artechouse (XYZT exhibit)
- Food Tour of Georgetown with CarpeDC or Brunch at the Ritz Carlton
Now if you are exhausted by the above itinerary (who wouldn’t be) for the Art Weekend in D.C., don’t think I went back to the hotel after the Food Tour – I kept up the busy pace until the last-minute I had to go home on Amtrak on Monday. You’ll need to wait to hear about the rest of my time in D.C. – Read all about the above activities in-depth (as I like to do) in the upcoming weeks and be sure to read the other participants stories and perspectives from our art/food/fun weekend in D.C. at #BloggersTakeTheCity on social media channels. I hope you find something new to discover on your next trip to Washington, D.C.
Now for the Long Version……of the Art Weekend in D.C.
Itinerary for an Art Weekend in D.C.
Travel Tip: When you have large group, Uber XL is your friend. Assign one/two people to order all of the cars and pay, then collect money from everyone to reimburse them at the end of the weekend.
Friday – Art Weekend in D.C. – Luxury Hotel and Rooftop Dancing
5 p.m. – Fairmont D.C. Hotel Welcome
For a weekend of art, it seemed fitting to be staying at the newly renovated Fairmont D.C. in Georgetown. As you enter the lobby you are struck by the ceiling art and the mixed material designs plus that table! The bright and airy lobby space led to a sunken lobby bar and out to the patio space that would host a jazz trio on Sunday night. Art, Music and Luxury all before I’ve seen the rooms! It was a great start to the weekend.
8 p.m. – Silent Dance Society’s Friday Night Silent Disco at the Embassy Row Hotel
Friday night lights were courtesy of our rooftop Silent Disco visit. Set on the rooftop of the Embassy Row Hotel, the Silent Dance Society hosts a Friday night Silent Disco with views of the city from above. A bit skeptical to the event, thinking I was too old, I ended up surprised at how much I loved it. With all ages dancing and mingling, the disco of my past (screaming to talk, one DJ with good and bad songs, etc.) was upgraded to three DJs, a headset of my own and the ability to dance when and where I wanted. Bonus points for singing out loud. The biggest obstacle after my preconceived notion was trying not to fall into the pool whilst dancing.
Saturday – Art Weekend in D.C. – Art, Walk, Eat, Repeat
8 a.m. – Breakfast in the Gold Lounge at the Fairmont, D.C. in Georgetown
Waking up early to make the 8 am breakfast in the lounge was a bit tough because we not only had a late night at the Silent Disco but the King bed was so comfortable I could have stayed in it all day happily living off room service and using the spa. The lounge breakfast buffet offering is quite varied to satisfy most appetites. I could have survived on the crispy bacon and fruit alone!
10 a.m. – The Renwick Gallery, a Smithsonian Museum
Our first stop of the day was the Renwick Gallery near the White House. The highlighted installation, Parallax Gap was on display in the Salon on the 2nd floor. We would first need to experience the red carpet up the stairs and the LED installation overhead. With time to explore the other rooms of the decorative arts gallery, I was of course drawn to the Chihuly as well as other pieces on display. The gallery entry is free and I would schedule at least an hour if you want to do an art drive by of the rooms. Two hours if you want to leisurely explore.
Noon – National Gallery Sculpture Garden
Walking past the White House crowds we were on a trek to the Hirshhorn via the National Gallery Sculpture Garden which has a large fountain and is surrounded by sculptures, benches and performance spaces. You can easily spend an hour just strolling the garden taking in the sculptures.
1 p.m. – Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
Arriving first at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden we all made a wish at Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC
After wishing for world peace, lottery wins and some candy (a lot of walking, we were hungry), we entered the Hirshhorn and rode the escalator up one floor to begin our journey through “Trace”. The walls were adorned with a special wallpaper that had symbols of imprisonment when you looked closer. On the floor over a few areas were portraits of political dissidents around the world created with Legos. Yes, Legos, over one million Legos to create the 176 portraits. Up close to the edge you couldn’t see the portraits as well as you did with a step back. This powerful art lends itself to deep conversations about passion, conviction and politics and how far are you willing to go. It’s no coincidence that you are looking down at the floor, down at the portraits – it’s meant to be that way as society looks down on prisoners.
2 p.m. – A Bit of Texas in D.C. at Hill Country BBQ
With a thought-provoking visit ending, it was now time to decompress the mornings’ art with a lunch at Hill Country BBQ. An odd place for me as I’m not a fan of BBQ, however, it’s a great place for groups and families to eat as the prices are reasonable and the portions easily shared. They have happy hour specials, live music and you definitely should make a reservation as it’s a popular place. With my gluten-free diet, I was happy to see they have a GF menu. I chose chicken, cornbread and lemonade. It’s on tours like this that I discover places I probably would have overlooked normally. With my meal ticket of options, I got a taste of Texas in D.C.
3 p.m. – “The Hive” at the National Building Museum
But the art wasn’t over yet! Our next stop was the National Building Museum (our feet decided it was time to call an Uber) which was hosting “The Hive”, a building block of paper rolls that was more than I could ever think to do. My art skill ends at stick figures and pyramids of Legos. Walking through the giant structure in the lobby of the museum, the colors were highlighted from the sunlight pouring in above. A smaller hive inside invited kids of all ages to make music.
4 p.m. – Happy Hour Rum Tastings at Cotton & Reed
Happy Hour featured a highlight of locally made Rum tastings. We needed Uber to transport us to the Union Market area where we would walk a few steps past the market to Cotton & Reed, a Rum distillery. The rum shots were lined up waiting for us as we would learn from one of the founders all about their rum, its history and how they are shaking up the D.C. cocktail scene. After our shots of 90 proof white rum and the others, we did a quick spin in Union Market walking past the stalls of local vendors selling foods, drinks and treats. Sadly, the donuts were all sold out.
5 p.m. – Back to the Hotel to get ready for our 6 p.m. dinner reservation (Uber called for the twenty-minute ride from Union Market to the Fairmont, D.C.).
6 p.m. – Carmine’s NYC in D.C.
We had a reservation at Carmine’s D.C., a long time NYC Italian restaurant outpost in D.C., a favorite of large groups, family styled Italian dining and for those needing a secret service entrance.
As I’m now 90% gluten and dairy free (I keep hitting a pizza or cupcake wall), I wouldn’t think to go for pasta but was happy to see Carmine’s NYC offered a gluten-free menu (as well as garlic free, dairy free, vegan and vegetarian menus). I chose a simple gluten-free pasta Pomodoro and they brought a family sharing portion which I hated to waste but seriously it was massive. The group had a tomato/mozzarella appetizer, a bread basket, Caesar salad, pasta dish and chicken Marsala served family style.
The famous dessert “the Titanic” consisted of a gluten-free chocolate torte (I could eat that), with a plethora of vanilla and chocolate ice cream scoops plus whipped crème. Finishing touches were the banana on either side of the torte with strawberries, chocolate sauce and cookie straws. In a word – WOW!
9 p.m. – We Missed the Evening Trolley Tour of the Monuments
As our dinner went long (group of 12 can’t eat in an hour) we missed our 7:30 p.m. Moonlight Monument Tour (3 hours) with Old Town Trolley (I was bummed because I was looking forward to a break from walking and, of course, wore the cute, not walking shoes). So we did our own DIY (do it yourself) Evening Monuments tour.
I opted to go to the Lincoln Memorial and then walk to the MLK and FDR monuments, while the other group chose the Lincoln Memorial, Reflection Pool and National Monument (see the photos at #BloggersTakeTheCity and #myDCcool). We had to Uber to the Lincoln Memorial and then could easily to walk to all of those other monuments until we could walk no more (my Uber app was on fire). In the cab, exhausted, my friend said we walked over 17,000 steps today which probably didn’t negate any of those “Titanic” calories.
10:30 p.m. – Back at the Fairmont D.C.
Falling into bed and sleep was very easy after a long day of art and food with a side of monuments. Waking up before 7 a.m. to do it all again wasn’t easy.
Sunday – Art Weekend in D.C. – Tech and Food
8 a.m. – Breakfast and Discussions in the Gold Lounge of the Fairmont D.C. Hotel
10 a.m. – Artechouse
The group would visit an interesting art installation at Artechouse near the Mandarin Oriental hotel (need Uber) for the XYZT installation. The groups were limited in number and time in the exhibit. I had no clue what to expect so was surprised by the futuristic interactive exhibits that changed with my movement, my whispers, my snapping fingers and my jumps. Blending art and technology, I was immersed childlike into a new world to discover and experience art differently.
Noon – Candy Jars and Goodbyes to our Art Weekend in D.C.
With the last of the art for the weekend, we headed back to the hotel just as the snacks were being put out in the lounge. Jars of candy favorites with bags to fill plus cookies were easy to takeaway (yes, we ate breakfast and were on the way to lunch or a food tour but it’s free candy!).
1:00 p.m. – Georgetown Food Tour or Ritz Carlton Brunch
The groups then split into those attending the Ritz Carlton Brunch and those off on a food tour of Georgetown with CarpeDC food tours. I chose the food tour despite the fact that I knew gluten/dairy free would have no food to eat (advance notice can cater to vegetarians). The walking tour was a history of Georgetown though it’s churches and homes with five food stops. My friends at the Ritz Carlton met the chefs and learned about the farm to table approach as they dined on special menu items like steak frites (I should have been at the air-conditioned Ritz Carlton instead of outside in the 90+ degree sunny day).
Final Thoughts – Art Weekend in D.C.
The jam-packed Art & Food weekend in D.C. was thoughtfully crafted and so much fun. I loved learning about new art, dancing on rooftops, tasting both Texas and NYC in D.C., and sleeping in luxury. So many things I probably wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t with the group.
Now since it’s meant to be an Art & Food Weekend in D.C. for you, I’d suggest
- Pick and choose from the above two-day itinerary to craft your D.C. experience – you can’t do it all in one trip plus you need time to discover on your own
- Agree a leisurely pace as it’s a vacation (holiday)
- Sleep late and order room service to fully enjoy the luxurious surroundings at the Fairmont D.C.
- Bring good walking shoes for the days and the cute shoes for the nighttime Ubers.
- Definitely find that 90 proof run at Cotton & Reed for a Pina Colada (or two)
As you know, I rarely do press trips or sponsored tours unless I think there is great content for me to discover and share with you. As I love luxury hotels, art and walking, this was a perfect weekend to participate in. It was a mix of my money (i.e. – hotel media rate, taxi, Ubers, Amtrak and extras), free admission (Smithsonian museums) and complimentary visits/tours/food. As always, my opinions are uniquely mine.
A Note of Thanks – Art & Food Weekend in D.C.
Thanks to the various sponsors for a fun Art & Food weekend in D.C.– check them out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- Washington, D.C. Tourism Board for organizing our weekend @washingtondc
- The Fairmont D.C. to Diana and her fantastic team for a warm welcome cocktail party, fabulous Gold lounge service and for providing a Gold upgrade with our media rates @FairmontDC #Fairmontmoments
- Silent Dance Society (@silentDsociety) and The Embassy Row Hotel (@embassyrowhotel) for Silent Disco on the Rooftop
- Hill Country BBQ for My Meal Ticket to a Taste of Texas (@hillcountrybbq)
- Carmine’s NYC for the Gluten Free Pasta and the Titanic of a dessert (@carminesnyc)
- Artechouse – Art meets Technology – XYZT Exhibit (@artechouse)
- The National Building Museum –“The Hive” Special Exhibit (@buildingmusuem) #HiveDC
- Cotton & Reed – I do like Pina Coladas and at 90 proof I’m sure to be singing in the rain after! (@cottonandreed, #BornToRum)
- Old Town Trolley – Sorry to have missed the Moonlight Monuments Tour – next time? (@oldtowntrolley)
- The Ritz Carlton – I didn’t attend the Brunch but thanks for wowing my friends with the food tastings (@ritzcarlton) Next time?
- CarpeDC Food Tour (@CarpeDCfood) for showing me Georgetown through its churches, homes and food
The following are FREE admission for all guests for your Art Weekend in D.C.:
- Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden (@hirshhorn) – “Wish Tree for Washington, DC” and “Trace”
- The Renwick Gallery (@americanart) – “Parallax Gap”, new (to me) artist exhibits and the wonderful permanent collection
- National Gallery Sculpture Garden