Explore Washington D.C.

How to #SeizeTheStay With Cynthia Gianuca of The Westin D.C., CityCenter

Looking for rainy day activities throughout the DMV? Cynthia Gianuca of The Westin Washington, D.C. City Center, shares her top picks throughout the district!

We love to #SeizeTheStay with day trip recommendations to places like Baltimore, Maryland; Middleburg, Virginia; and Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. What destination do you like to recommend to guests and why? 

I like to recommend Old Town Alexandria, which was part of the District of Columbia from 1801 to 1847. It’s eight miles from Downtown D.C. and easily accessible by car, metro and the Potomac River Boat Company. There’s also a free trolley that goes to and from the King Street Metrorail station to the marina every 15 minutes.

With its rich colonial history and beautiful architecture, the riverside city is filled with a vibrant culture, which includes historical landmarks, charming festivals and boutiques, art and a wonderful farm-to-table dining scene.

My must-visit sites are the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum and Torpedo Factory Art Center. For delicious dining, I suggest Mia’s Italian Kitchen, Taverna Cretekou and Chart House.

Want to #SeizeTheStay? Gianuca recommends visiting the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Old Town Alexandria (©R Nowitz for Visit Alexandria)
Want to #SeizeTheStay? Gianuca recommends visiting the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Museum in Old Town Alexandria (©R Nowitz for Visit Alexandria)

What’s your favorite hidden gem in the District?

Named after the owner’s dachshund, who she found abandoned in the streets of Italy, Nino's Bakery is my favorite hidden gem. The delicious Italian bakery is located on L and 13th street. Everything here is carefully prepared and baked onsite daily. Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? I suggest the pistachio and almond cookies.

With so many different cultures represented throughout the D.C. area, there’s no shortage of diversity, especially when it comes to dining. When a guest is looking for an international restaurant, which do you recommend?

The new Peruvian restaurant, Pisco y Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar, has an interesting and tasty menu. The décor is modern yet cozy, with a cool atmosphere.

Petits Plats, a French restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, also has a delicious menu. Fireplaces in the dining rooms, the historical building and cozy decor make you feel like you’re in France.

Whether you’re looking for Peruvian or French cuisine, you can’t go wrong with these two. Both also have a patio that’s great for socializing.

In addition, I also recommend Texas de Brazil. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you'll find something among the options at the salad buffet. The just-out-of-the-oven cheese breads (the famous pão de queijo) are so wonderful, it’s impossible to have just one!

In D.C., we’re lucky to have many museums and attractions that are free. What’s your favorite museum or attraction that you think everyone should visit at least once?

Everyone should visit the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I always make a point to recommend it, especially to the younger generation. One of the highlights of the museum is the insect zoo, which is located on the third floor. It's important to learn about nature, and that every creature (big or small) plays an indispensable role in the ecosystem.

There are so many different ways to tour the city. What’s your top pick?

Whether through private charter, sightseeing cruise or water taxi, The Potomac River Boat Company offers many fun ways to see the city from the Potomac River. They travel from Georgetown to Old Town Alexandria and Mount Vernon—three must-visit sites in the metropolitan area.

It’s a rainy day in the DMV, but I still want to get out and explore. Describe your perfect rainy-day activities in the city.

If you stay at our hotel, The Westin, Washington, D.C. City Center, you don't have to go out in the rain for breakfast. 1400 North, one of our restaurants, offers an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet with an omelet station.

Rainy days present the perfect time to visit museums, such as the Smithsonian Natural History Museum or the National Gallery of Art, Newseum, and the International Spy Museum. I’d also recommend visiting the Museum of the Bible and the “Washington Revelations” exhibit there, a simulator that takes you on a “flight” over Washington and through the buildings. While you’re there, try the museum’s restaurant, Manna, the cafeteria-style Mediterranean eatery by Equinox chef Todd Gray.

Looking for a rainy day recommendation? Put on your spy hat, and spend the day exploring the International Spy Museum (Courtesy of International Spy Museum)
Looking for a rainy day recommendation? Put on your spy hat, and spend the day exploring the International Spy Museum (Courtesy of International Spy Museum)

After resting on our famous Westin “Heavenly Beds,” head to dinner at Fringetree Bar & Restaurant on our lobby level. It has a casual atmosphere and a menu that changes seasonally. I highly recommend the parmesan-crusted chicken paillard. In the spring, we’ll be featuring our own harvest honey from our rooftop beehives, which is very exciting!

If you'd like to venture out, B Too, Toro Toro or Siroc are all located close to our hotel. For some after-dinner fun, check out one of the newest features of our property, the curling lane, located right next to Fringetree.

Forgot your umbrella? No worries! We have plenty on hand to lend to our guests.

How did you get your start in the hospitality industry? What advice do you have for who want to get into the industry but aren’t sure where to start?

Seven years ago, Joanna Sanchez, my first front desk manager at the Westin Arlington Gateway, interviewed me. Based on my personality and skills alone, Joanna saw the qualities she was looking for in a concierge and hired me within 30 minutes. Others had turned me down due to my lack of experience, but I will always be thankful to Joanna because she gave me the opportunity to show what I could do. Working as a concierge feels very natural to me. It gives me great satisfaction to make people happy. It’s also very rewarding to help my guests solve a problem or crisis.

Although it’s a bit difficult to give advice to someone just starting, being a concierge involves having a passion for the profession. It takes dedication and being open to learning something new every day.

When you’re not working to make sure your guests are enjoying their stay, where can we find you?

You'll find me spending time with family and friends, trying a new restaurant (or visiting one of my favorites), going to the gym, sewing at home, visiting a museum or taking in a live concert or a play. 

Gianuca on a segway
Gianuca enjoying a beautiful day in the nation's capital on a segway. (Courtesy Cynthia Gianuca)!