Gareth Branwyn, D.C.'s established link to Maker Media, traces “maker” culture to a seismic event at the turn of this century—when the Silicon Valley tech boom went bust. With widespread job loss, all those brainy workers focused skills and curiosity on making-do with electronics they already owned. Repairing and sharing ultimately spun off fruitful tinkering and collaboration via the democratic Internet. Branwyn recalls that, in early days, he and colleagues saw the “maker” community as “tech’s answer to slow food.”
Today’s “maker movement” supports that ethos of personal control as it continues the romance of craft-meets-engineering. So where does this DIY and DIWO (Do It With Others) spirit surface here? High-visibility showcases prove rare indeed. Locals connect via “meetups” posted on the web calendars of groups like HacDC, Women Who Code, Mobile DC and Design Thinking DC. The Labs at DC Public Library sponsor drop-in workshops from digitizing film and video to fabric mending. Most fulltime and budding artisans still work alone in studios, yet a growing number belong to centers equipped with 3-D printers, scanners, laser cutters and welding stations.
Technology, once costly and corporate, has become affordable and accessible. One such space, TechShop, opened three years ago beside Arlington, Virginia’s Crystal City Shops mall, and now 800 members utilize its staff expertise and $1 million-plus worth of equipment and software. Think “workout gym” for artists, teachers, inventors and entrepreneurs. Visitors watch the fabrication projects through glass windows or pay $50 for a day’s access to computers, tech advice and drafting tables.
An on-site retail store offers objects made here—laser-cut puzzles by Stas Casa, “architectural” jewelry of engraved metal by Alissa Werres, even oboe reeds crafted by Ginju Carlson on a self-designed machine. Successes originating at TechShop include the True Honey Teas pods created by Chris Savage for Keurig-compatibility, the Orcavue video filming rig for Matrix-like effects and the R&D prototype of a docking station for drones.
The new Shop Made in DC represents the softer side of maker goods. South of Dupont Circle at 1333 19th Street NW, congenial souls here serve local-brand foods, curated beverages and artisan wares. Thirty or so vendors test potential markets with their jewelry, pottery, sculpture, leisure wear, candles, baby and kid clothing (D.C. flag tees), bags, beauty supplies, greeting cards (“You’re my spirit animal”) and screen prints of D.C. locales.
The cafe features breakfast sandwiches from Bullfrog Bagels, tacos by chef Ed McIntosh of Tortilla Dora, espresso and cold brews from Small Planes Coffee and Asian fare by chef (once Buddhist monk) Dorjee Tsering, his fiery red coconut beef curry inspired by Tibetan nomad ancestors. Beverage guru Greg Engert of Neighborhood Restaurant Group has selected ANXO Cider (from D.C.-foraged Goldrush apples) and beers from native breweries like the D.C. Brau Pilsner, Atlas pale ale, Bluejacket IPA and 3 Stars Southern Belle Imperial Brown Ale “toasted” with pecans.
Surely the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery is the nation’s fine art “maker” showcase. This museum of sophisticated craft holds objects produced by hand and works made possible by evolving technology. The permanent collection includes “Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery” (2009), a cast glass sculpture by Karen LaMonte; “Curtains and Balcony Bracelet” (2008), a 3-D printed adornment of glass bead-filled polyamide by Joshua DeMonte; and “Drift” (2011), a white oak and bamboo seating element designed by Matthias Pliessnig with Rhinoceros 3-D software.
No surprise, the Renwick museum store displays jewelry of laser-cut leather or extruded nylon fiber alongside wares of traditional materials. And an entry point stunner: Leo Villareal’s “Volume (Renwick)” of infinitely varied LED sequences above the central staircase pulses to an algorithm written by the artist himself.
Washington D.C. has many storied neighborhoods, the allure of the Mall and historical sites but the most iconic new locale is Capitol Riverfront.
The burgeoning neighborhood on the banks of the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C. is one of the fastest growing in the area. It has amazing parks, both on the river and in the heart of the city, in addition to nightlife and live entertainment.
Williamsburg, Virginia, is much more than the world's largest living history museum. Go beyond the city's famed colonial attractions and discover an area rich in wine and spirits, farm-to-table dining, spas and recreation opportunities for the whole family.
We were surrounded by candy. But not just any candy. These sweets had stories: GooGoo Clusters, the first “combination” candy bar; circus peanuts, the inspiration for Lucky Charms cereal marshmallows; peanut brittle made from a George Washington Carver recipe; and Lemon Gibraltars, the first commercially made candy in the U.S., from 1806.
“I have to live here,” my 4-year-old daughter declared. “Here,” specifically, is True Treats, a historic candy store where you can buy goodies from the very beginning of snacking—bag of roasted bugs, we’re looking at you—to today’s popular Bubble Tape. But “here” could also refer to the charming town where you’d find such a history-loving shop: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Just over an hour’s drive northwest from downtown D.C., Harpers Ferry packs a lot of past into its 390 acres. George Washington chose the town, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, as the site for a U.S. Armory. Thomas Jefferson climbed to a lookout point now known as Jefferson’s Rock and pronounced the setting “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”
But the main reason Harpers Ferry is now a National Historical Park lies with a surprisingly small brick building located almost at the very point where the Potomac and the Shenandoah meet. Here, in 1859 in the armory’s fire engine house, abolitionist John Brown and his followers made their last stand after their raid of the U.S. Armory failed to incite an antislavery uprising. He was captured, tried and hung, but the event helped tilt the nation into civil war.
We saw these events dramatized at the cheesy/spooky John Brown Wax Museum on High Street—not to be confused with the John Brown Museum, which, like most of Harpers Ferry’s Lower Town, is part of the National Historical Park. In our family, given the choice between official exhibits and animated wax figures, wax always wins.
The last tableau in the wax museum was particularly chilling, as the John Brown figure, poised on the steps of the gallows, suddenly raised his head and seemed to look directly at us. “Let’s get out of here!” my 11-year-old daughter squeaked, clutching my arm.
Getting outdoors is actually another reason people flock to Harpers Ferry. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is headquartered here, at roughly the halfway point on the famed 2,200-mile trek. We note the number of people walking around town with chiseled calves and serious backpacks. You too can hike a part of the Appalachian Trail, but be sure to veer off on the path to Maryland Heights Overlook. Here you can capture a killer Instagram view—preferably around sunset—of one town, two rivers and three states: Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.
My family opted for whitewater rafting with outfitter River Riders, which also offers kayaking, tubing, biking, ziplining and an aerial adventure park. Since I have younger kids, general manager Tyler Tummolo suggested we raft the Needles, a scenic section of the Potomac with gentler waters.
Our expert rafting guide, John Ford, was full of fun facts including that George Washington was a whitewater enthusiast. “But he actually was really bad at it,” Ford said. A music education teacher during the colder months, Ford serenaded us with an Irish river chantey as he paddled around rocks and through watery dips and crests.
We floated past Lower Town and under the bridge that connects Harpers Ferry with Maryland Heights—yet another perspective on this historic spot. The exciting climax of the excursion was the section called White Horse Rapids. My 7-year-old son stood at the prow of the raft, gripping a strap as we plunged and bucked before emerging at the other end, soaked but safe.
And we weren’t done with adventure yet. Back at River Riders’ Adventure Park, everyone got a turn ziplining—except the 4-year-old, who was deemed too young. It was my first time, and as I hurtled at almost 50 miles per hour through the trees, over a parking lot and above a field, there was only one thing to say, one phrase that encapsulated our thrilling, history-filled day in Harpers Ferry: “Woo-hoo!”
It’s hard to miss Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Gordon Bunshaft’s modernist doughnut-shaped design stands out from the Smithsonian’s other traditional buildings along the National Mall. In front of the Hirshhorn, another attention-grabbing sight: a smiling boulder crushing a 1992 Dodge Spirit, Jimmie Durham’s whimsical 11,000-pound sculpture.
Credit for such head-turning acquisitions? Melissa Chiu, the museum’s executive director, who took the helm of the storied Smithsonian site in 2014. Since then, the Australian native has painted with a broad brush, bringing crowd-pleasing pieces like Durham’s but also Instagrammable immersive exhibitions by Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson and Japanese pop artist Yayoi Kusama.
Chiu recently spoke with us about her job—arguably one of the coolest in D.C.— how she plans to top recent shows and what she loves about her adopted city.
What’s the best part about your job?
It’s my great privilege to be able to communicate through exhibitions, to create programs that give voice to the most innovative and compelling artists from around the world.
The Hirshhorn recently showed works by Ragnar Kjartansson and Yayoi Kusama, which were huge hits. How are you going to top those exhibitions?
I encourage everyone not to miss our exhibitions by Ai Weiwei, Yoko Ono, Markus Lüpertz and Nicolas Party. They are very different artists, but each asks profound questions about our history and culture. After that, just wait and see!
Khartansson’s and Kusama’s works seem to show you have a playful spirit. How do you decide which artists to exhibit?
We’re always interested in artists who have something to say about the times in which we live. Sometimes this can have a playful approach—sometimes it has an entirely different sentiment.
Who’s your favorite artist, living or dead, and why?
I actually don’t have favorites. With each artist I encounter, I look for an individuality that pushes them to create with such conviction.
How would you describe D.C.’s art scene?
It’s very much an art scene defined by museums, especially national art museums—the National Gallery of Art—East and West buildings—the Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and of course the Hirshhorn, the national museum of modern art. But it also has this fascinating creative pulse that’s reflected in artist projects throughout the city.
As an Australian, what do you love about your adopted city, D.C.?
It’s a great place to live. The people are brilliant, and in the spring, there is no city more beautiful.
Can you recommend an off-the-beaten-path spot for great art in the city?
Transformer on P St. NW is an artist-run space, very much like where I started in Sydney. We collaborated with them to present a night of performance art on the Hirshhorn’s plaza, which was magical. Their gallery continues to surprise and delight.
Where are you going next, and what are you going to do there?
I’m going to Kassel, Germany, to see Documenta, a contemporary art exhibition that happens every five years and features experimental art.
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would you be?
Chiang Mai, Thailand
For many Washingtonians, summer begins the moment their car tires touch the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. On the western side of the bridge lie reminders of work and school-year schedules. On the other end of the 4.3-mile span, the rural Eastern Shore beckons with sailboats, gracious Victorian homes and lazy vacation days, where the only pressing thing on the to-do list is deciding which seafood restaurant to try each day.
Although “Eastern Shore” can refer to a broad area encompassing several counties and the entire east side of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, my family and I focus on Talbot County—which was formally established in 1661—for a weekend day trip. There, just an hour-and-a-half drive from D.C., we can experience a microcosm of what makes the Eastern Shore a quintessential summer getaway.
Of course, a successful family trip involves some compromise. OK, a lot of compromise. I want to stop at the Saturday farmers market in the town of Easton, the commercial hub of Talbot—pronounced TALL-but—County. My husband would like nothing better than to nurse a cold craft beer at Eastern Shore Brewing in St. Michaels. My three kids—ages 11, 7 and 4—want to head directly to the water.
It’s a hot, humid day so we all eventually agree: water. We drive to St. Michaels, past cute boutiques along Talbot Street before reaching the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. At the dock of the waterside open-air site, we board a working skipjack, the H.M. Krentz, for a two-hour sail on the bay captained by Ed Farley.
Captain Farley has been harvesting oysters here during the fall/winter season for 45 years. A few years back, he also began offering leisure cruises during the summer tourist season.
With a dapper white moustache and an easygoing manner, he is a wealth of information about the history and current state of Chesapeake Bay oystering. You wouldn’t know it from the ubiquity of the crab on Maryland bumper stickers and logos, but oysters were the state’s claim to fame in the late 19th century and well into the mid-20th.
Farley explains that disease devastated the oyster beds in 1983. Thanks to harvest management, oyster reef restoration and disease prevention measures, the bivalves have made a comeback, but not yet to pre-1983 levels.
Back on land, we explore the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which is full of hands-on exhibits and historic boats. We climb to the top of the 1879 lighthouse that used to sit in the Hooper Strait, and we peer into a stove pot to see the type of fare lighthouse keepers once ate—boiled potatoes and biscuits, by the looks of it. We pause to watch conservators restore an 1889 bugeye—a predecessor to the skipjack.
Lunch is at buzzing Ava’s Pizzeria, where I order a refreshing salad of arugula, goat cheese, strawberries and candied walnuts, and the kids share a thin-crust cheese pizza and a juicy chicken parmesan. Just down the street at 30-year-old Justine’s ice cream parlor, we sit on chairs on the sidewalk and lick scoops of mint chocolate chip, pistachio, caramel crunch and cookies n’ cream. Justine’s also whips up shakes in flavors from creamsicle to key lime. An employee comes out and gives us a bottle of water.
“It’s hot out today,” he explained. “We’re all family.”
I wonder, isn’t it time for some shopping yet? But the kids are adamant: more water, please, so we get back on the road toward the Oxford-Bellevue car ferry. Along the way, we stop at Rise Up Coffee Roasters, a drive-up kiosk in a strip mall parking lot offering strong espressos and smoothies.
As we pull onto the ferry for the 20-minute crossing of the Tred Avon River, I try to tell the kids that this may be America’s oldest privately owned ferry route. But they’re too busy jumping up and down in excitement that our minivan is actually on a boat. My youngest stands at the front of the ferry and does her best Jack-and-Rose-on-the-Titanic impression, arms spread out, wind whipping her curly hair. “My heart will go on!” she exclaims.
Oxford is another typically quiet and quaint Eastern Shore town with more cute stores I can’t browse through, including an indie bookshop—Mystery Loves Company Booksellers—and a new home store—Yacht and Home—as well as another classic ice cream shop, Scottish Highland Creamery. A new park trail is perfect for walking and biking.
In the end, we all agree that there’s only one way to conclude our Eastern Shore getaway: sitting by the bay eating seafood. We head back to St. Michaels, where we belly up to wooden picnic tables at Crab Claw. My husband and I dig into half a dozen blue crabs spiced with Old Bay, while the kids chow down on crab cakes, hush puppies and corn on the cob.
Yup, tastes like summer.
The man ahead of us on the brick sidewalk in downtown Annapolis sports a tricorn hat and knee breeches that scream early 1800s, not early 2000s. He’s a walking-tour guide, not a time traveler, an apt reminder of the long and colorful history of this small city by the Chesapeake Bay, about 30 miles east of Washington, D.C.
The cornerstone for the domed State House building—open daily for tours—was laid in this Maryland capital city in 1772. The narrow streets radiating off it are lined with 18th- and 19th-century row houses, steepled churches and grand Georgian mansions, like the William Paca House & Garden.
On a recent morning, my husband, Cal and I began a day trip to this charmingly throwback waterfront town at Paca’s 1760s residence. One of four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence, Paca lived here in stately, brightly painted rooms and enjoyed a boxwood-filled garden. It seems easy to imagine Maryland’s third governor wandering over to the nearby State House or walking down to the bustling port, just two blocks south.
We follow in Paca’s footsteps after our visit to his home, trying to plug into more colonial history via a Four Centuries Walking Tour. Susan Brannigan, a lawyer and friend who lives here, loves taking guests on these jaunts, which—no surprise—are led by history buffs in either mob caps and gowns or tricorns and knee pants like the dude we encountered earlier.
“Annapolis is such a small, walkable town, so you learn a lot in an hour and a half,” she said.
Our ye olde-garbed guide fills us in on history—George Washington resigned his army commission at the State House in 1783—and a few ghosts before leading us over to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Founded in 1845, the 300-plus acre campus on the water holds both massive French-style granite dorms, impressive sporting fields and a museum stuffed with swords, medals and dozens of ship models, including some carved from animal bones. The highlight of our walk proves to be the U.S. Naval Chapel, a domed, light-filled 19th-century edifice with a crypt holding the remains of Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones in a marble sarcophagus embellished with faux barnacles.
The academy itself also leads guided walking tours that are peppered with more in-depth peeks at the lives of the midshipmen or “middies,” aka the 4,000-plus men and women who attend college here. We learn they’re up at 6:30 am, have to commit to several hours of sports a day and must submit to frequent weigh-ins. Cal and I admire them—and spot a bunch of the white-uniformed students around campus—but fear we’re unqualified to go here.
Annapolis is also a boating and sailing center—just look at all those boats with names like Mofongo, Sally’s Folly and Sea Dream parked in the harbors. Options for getting out on the bay include kayaks and stand-up paddle boards for rent with Annapolis Canoe & Kayak and electric boats for hire via Annapolis Electric Boat Rentals.
“You get a new perspective on the city from the water,” said Electric Boat owner Greg Horne. “You see geese, ducks and Great Blue Heron and just make people on the shoreline wish they were with you.”
We decide to come back and pilot one of his 10-person boats later, but book a sunset cruise for the end of the day on the Schooner Woodwind.
Our boat trip doesn’t set sail for several hours, and Cal and I are starving. At the beachy-cool Harvest Wood Grill + Tap, we tuck into fried oysters and local beers, including the hoppy, fizzy Flying Dog Bloodline. It’s fuel for a bit of shopping at the quirky boutiques of Main Street and around the City Dock.
We browse locally designed, colorful leather handbags at Hobo, visit Re-Sails for pouches and totes made from recycled boat sails and check out used-tome dealer Back Creek Books. In the dimly lit, library-like calm of the latter, we uncover vintage Naval Academy posters and a 1929 book on whaling ships.
Before our sail, Cal and I head to the bustling Pusser’s Caribbean Grille, where we sip potent Painkillers—rum, juices and cream of coconut—and soak in the sun and the views of boats on the rippling water.
“Do you think we could learn to sail?” Cal asks as a tall sloop idles by.
Maybe that’s for our next trip. But to close out this day, Cal and I board the 74-foot-long Woodwind and pretend that it’s ours and that the friendly sailors are our personal staff. With beers in our hands and wind in our hair, we glide forward into the Chesapeake as the tangerine sun dips into the blue.
“Some nights they have races, and it’s always cool to help raise the sails,” Susan had told us earlier. “I go on the Woodwind so often I think they know my name!”
Soon, they might learn mine, too.
Even though the spring cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin may arguably be D.C.’s most iconic scene, National Geographic photographer Daniel Westergren isn’t a fan.
“It’s very beautiful, but quite a circus with people and photographers everywhere,” he said.
Instead, Westergren heads to the Lincoln Memorial at sunrise any other time of the year for the type of memorable shot that has attracted almost 23,000 followers—and counting—to his Instagram feed (@danwestergren).
“First the sky turns blue, then the rising sun sends a ray of orange light into the memorial, making rectangles on the wall behind Abe Lincoln’s statue,” he said. “It only lasts for a few minutes, but it’s quite something to see, and adds color to the photos.”
Look for Good Light and New Angles
The longtime photo director for National Geographic Traveler magazine, Westergren now works as a freelance photographer and photo workshop leader. He said one of the most common mistakes people make when shooting in D.C. —as in other places—is not understanding the importance of good light.
“If you’re willing to get up early, or be out taking pictures when most people are eating dinner, you’ll find never-ending great photo ops.”
Another main challenge for shutterbugs is creating fresh images of Washington’s well-known monuments and memorials.
“They are so good-looking that most photographers just stand in front of them and take a picture,” said Westergren.
“That’s a good start, but to really utilize them, use the sites as a background and photograph people interacting with them, your family or just random strangers. I always joke with D.C. workshop participants that if I want a picture of the Lincoln Memorial, I can just pull a penny out of my pocket. So do something to make your photo your own.”
Also a National Geographic Traveler photographer and workshop leader, Krista Rossow—33.9k Instagram followers, @kristarossow—suggests looking “for angles and situations that are unusual. Instead of a straight-on shot of the Washington Monument, maybe photograph its reflection in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or shoot through all the flags at its base.”
Wait for It
Great snaps also require patience to see what events unfold around you, from parades to protests.
“You never know what activity will be happening on the National Mall,” Rossow said. “Some weekends there will be veterans who are visiting the World War II Memorial for the first time, and seeing people walk up and thank these men and women for their service can turn into powerful photographs. Other times there will be people crawling backwards up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial doing intense physical training courses. And if you hang around long enough, you’ll usually see a wedding proposal!”
Westergren likes how on most Saturday mornings there are crews scrubbing the wall of the Vietnam memorial.
“It really brings the importance of this site into perspective,” he said.
Go Off the Beaten Path
Once you’ve Instagrammed from the main D.C. landmarks, it’s time to head to less touristy places. Rossow suggests exploring different neighborhoods to see what they turn up: the brick townhouses of Georgetown, the bustling stalls of Eastern Market, the street art of Shaw.
“In the daytime, I love photographing riders coming out of the Metro at the north Dupont Circle station,” she said, “and at twilight, I like to play with long exposures to get the traffic around Dupont Circle to turn into colorful blurs.”
Westergren recommends going even farther afield.
“Head up the Potomac River a few miles to Great Falls. It’s an amazing site very close to the capital city. It’s probably best photographed from the Virginia side, because you can get closer to the water.”
Then, Snap Away
Ultimately, both photographers agree that Washington is simply super photogenic, period.
“The reason I like photographing in D.C. is the same as the reason I liked living in D.C.,” said Rossow, who moved away four years ago but returns often. “There is so much to see and do. D.C. has it all: the iconic memorials and buildings, off-the-beaten-track gems, vibrant neighborhoods, diverse architecture and lush green spaces.”
And it’s a city that can even win over skeptics. After years of avoiding the cherry blossom madness, Westergren found himself turning into a petal promoter when he agreed to create a portrait of a friend among the blooms. That led to another friend commissioning a portrait there, too. Then the following day, Westergren conducted a live video photo workshop for Nat Geo Travel from the Tidal Basin.
“So basically I visited the Tidal Basin at 5:30 am three times in four days.”
Though pastry queen Tiffany MacIsaac and her husband, chef Kyle Bailey of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, are both known for making their marks on the D.C. food scene, MacIsaac is actually an island girl. Born and raised on Maui in Hawaii, she moved to New York City at the tender age of 18 and went on to hone her pastry skills at some of the Big Apple’s best restaurants, including Michelin-starred Cru and Allen and Delancey.
Now at Buttercream Bakeshop, which she owns with business partner Alexandra Mudry-Till, MacIsaac takes her talents to sweet new heights. Where Magazine recently caught up with the three-time James Beard Award semi-finalist to find out her go-to spots for dinner, what she actually likes to bake, and the one thing she adores about living in the nation’s capital.
You were head of pastry for Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s 14 properties. How did you come up with fresh new ideas for Buttercream?
Taking a year and a half to open really helped to clear my head and gave me needed time to test new recipes, bake constantly, develop new design ideas and think about how I wanted the bakery to feel. Reading, traveling and eating around town certainly gave me lots of inspiration, too!
What do you like to bake when you’re not working?
I pretty much stick to icebox pies. I'm not a fan of home ovens compared to what we use at Buttercream. Icebox pies offer the best of baking without actually baking. When we have family visiting, I make an exception and whip up scones and biscuits daily.
You’re all about the dessert, but where do you like to go for dinner?
I love The Source (dumplings at the bar and Peking duck, to be specific) and Mandu (kimchee fried rice is my favorite comfort food). I'm also obsessed with the pizza at All-Purpose, which is right next door to Buttercream. We actually make all of their pizza dough, so it's fun to experience our handiwork in a more savory application. The pepperoni pizza with spicy honey, mushroom and fontina is what dreams are made of.
Something visitors may not know about D.C.’s food scene?
Most of the chefs here are really great friends. No one looks at each other as competition. We all understand that to make D.C. an amazing food city, we need to work together. The sense of camaraderie was one of the first things my husband and I noticed after we moved here, and we just fell in love with the city. It's all about collaboration, community and helping each other achieve success.
What do you love most about D.C.?
When we were weighing the pros of moving here from New York City, one of the items at the top of my list was a longer soft shell crab season. It remains one of my favorite things about the area. And, of course, the cherry blossoms! They really are incredible. No matter how many years you've seen them bloom, it's always such a sight.
What do you like to do when the weather warms up?
The summertime can often be hot. Very hot. So I tend to seek out places that will keep you cool. In addition to the many world-class museums our city has to offer, I like to visit the waterfront by Nationals Park. There's this cool breeze that comes off the water, and the area is home to one of my favorite ice cream shops, Ice Cream Jubilee. I love to get a scoop to enjoy sitting by the water.
Best photo op in or of the city?
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden always has photo op-worthy exhibits. People also love the neon “Awesome” sign at Rose's Luxury. Plus you can have a great meal there before you get your shot!
If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
It would have to be home, on Maui, with my family. I went home in January for the first time in eight years and would love to get back again soon. There's nothing like the smell of fresh rain as the sun comes up in Haiku. And I can still get my sugar fix from this amazing little bakery that opened on Maui near my parents' house.
What’s your best tip for visitors?
Rent a bike, and explore some of D.C.'s historic neighborhoods. It’s a great way to get a feel for the culture and fabric of the city.
Where caught up with Milan Koviljac to talk D.C. local secrets and Koviljac's career at the Loews Madison.
Tell me about yourself! How did you get started in the concierge profession?
When I arrived in Washington, D.C. I met several concierges who worked at the Carlton Hotel (now the St. Regis), in addition to some who opened the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C. One of them was Michael High, chief concierge at the Dupont Hotel. Talking and learning from some of the concierge friends I made gave me a huge desire to become a concierge.
My first hotel was Carlyle Suites at Dupont, where I started working in 2000, but my first exclusive concierge job was at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza, part of IHG, affiliated with the Willard InterContinental, where I met Sandor Subert, who is still concierge there. I started working at the Loews Madison Hotel in 2013.
What’s one of D.C.’s best-kept secrets you’d recommend to your guests?
Sundays at the Meridian Hill Park. The best time is through spring and fall, when thousands of locals spread out on its lawns. There’s an amazing mix of all ages, all races and all lifestyles, celebrating through music, dance, sports or just lying around reading. In my opinion, the best parts are the rhythms and dancers around its famous Drum Circle.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of being a concierge?
Such an important, international and expensive city as Washington, D.C. has demanding guests with very high expectations. A true concierge can assist, pamper and meet them. True hoteliers can see the importance of having a well-connected, well-informed and knowledgeable hotel lobby concierge at the guest’s disposal.
For a guest looking for a night on the town or wanting to celebrate a special occasion, what would you recommend?
I personally prefer Eighteenth Street Lounge, a long-running, very “D.C.” lounge, with a mix of sophistication, cosmopolitanism and “cool” with a big “C.” There are rotating and resident DJs, live music, varied and diverse patrons and it’s within close proximity to my hotel. Celebrating a special occasion can also be done in one of many amazing restaurants in D.C.
You’re very active on Instagram, which shows you love taking pictures. If a visitor wants to capture the perfect selfie, where’s the best photo-op in D.C.?
What’s the most unusual request you’ve received from a guest?
This is a tough one...Well, tickets for a U2 concert on the day of the show. A bottle of rare Grgich wine that’s impossible to find in the stores—order it from Sherry's Wine & Spirits. But, honestly, in our profession, there are no unusual requests. Concierges are highly trained to “create the magic,” so any request—easy or challenging—is an opportunity to do so.
What do you love most about D.C.?
Its architectural beauty. Washington’s architecture is stunning and imposing. And although D.C. is conservative on the surface, underneath it is very liberal and open. Also, you can find bicycles everywhere in the city, and I love that! D.C. is a very green city with so many big trees that are old and beautiful.
What do you love most about being a concierge?
The dynamics. I love sharing my knowledge with people in need and I feel excited when I can make a change. Also, when I don’t know something, I am always excited to learn something new.
What stops should be on every visitor’s “bucket list” when they come to the DMV?
Where’s the best spot in the D.C. area to watch the fireworks?
Anywhere by the water, such as the Tidal Basin or Reflecting Pool, the area between the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials and the Washington Monument. The backdrop of the fireworks behind the memorials and the monument, reflecting off the water is stunning, and no exclusive rooftop can replace that.
America’s two most historic ballparks—Chicago’s Wrigley Field and Boston’s Fenway Park—each opened more than a century ago. Having hosted its first game in 2008, D.C.’s Nationals Park is just a baby, but it’s mature far beyond its years.
One case in point? The park’s commitment to sustainability. As the country’s first major professional stadium to become LEED Silver certified, Nationals Park has lots of eco-friendly features, like water-conserving plumbing, drought-resistant landscaping, energy-saving lights and even a 6,300-square-foot green roof atop a concession area.
The ballpark is also located near a Metro station, meaning many of the red-clad fans—more than 2.4 million last season—who flock to the Southeast Washington venue use public transportation to get there. And cyclists take advantage of the free bike valet.
The stadium has spurred revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood, drawing restaurants, bars and green spaces like The Yards Park and Riverwalk, a one-mile path beside the Anacostia River, that give fans a reason to come before the game and stay after.
Of course, it helps that, led by superstars like Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, the Nats in recent years have become one of baseball’s best teams. The Scherzer snow globe and Harper action figure are certain to be among the most sought-after promotional giveaways this season, but events like Yoga in the Outfield, an LGBT night and an opportunity for senior fans to stroll the bases also prove popular.
Back by “pup”ular demand, as the team likes to say, is Pups in the Park, six dates during the season when fans can bring their dogs to the game. All proceeds from dog tickets benefit the Washington Humane Society.
Every year the franchise adds food and beverage options to a mouthwatering lineup that already is ranked in the top 10 among baseball stadiums by Thrillist.com. On the menu this season, find new items including chicken fried steak and an Italian sausage burger, plus perennial favorites like the half-smoke from local legend Ben’s Chili Bowl. Fans can wash down their food with a cocktail from the new Distilleries of the DMV or a beer from Devils Backbone Brewing Company Left Field Lodge.
Nationals Park continues to be among the most technologically advanced stadiums in the country. This year the team collaborated with Major League Baseball to launch a customized app for iPhone and Android on which fans can buy tickets, order concessions and access news, promotions, in-game activities and discounts.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to enhance the guest experience,” said Valerie Camillo, the team’s chief revenue and marketing officer. “From partnering with leading brands to creating unique spaces for fans to expanding our concession and beverage options, we’re always striving to make Nationals Park the premier sports destination.”
For a behind-the-scenes look at places like the press box, dugout, bullpen—throw a pitch—and visiting team clubhouse, take one of the tours offered April through November—$15-$25, children $10-$20.
At its core, baseball is a kids’ game, and the Nationals focus much of their attention on entertaining the youngest fans. After all Sunday home games, kids ages 4 through 12 can run the bases, and on July 30, the first 10,000 fans 12 and under receive a free coloring book. The stadium has a Family Fun Area with a jungle gym, and there are special concessions for youngsters.
Matt and Lauren Hirt of Bethesda, Maryland, take their three children—Gibson, 12; Sullivan, 11; and Eliza, 8—to several games each season. “The main thing that brings us back is the quality of the team,” Matt said. “But the kids also really like the size and space of the center field promenade where we hang out before games. The presidents’ race is always a highlight. They also do T-shirt tosses, which the kids love. We already caught one this season and it was a big thrill!”
Ah yes, those Racing Presidents. No matter what flashy technology the team employs or savory treat it offers hungry fans, the giant George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover mascots who sprint—and often topple over—during the fourth inning continue to set Nationals Park apart. They’re a sight to behold, one you can’t experience at Fenway or Wrigley—or anywhere else in baseball.
If you could take a time machine back and visit ordinary people striving to build a nation, would you?
At the turn of the millennium Bob Goldberg, National Association of Realtors senior vice president, was given that opportunity. Curators and staff from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History approached Goldberg and asked if the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, would be willing to sponsor an exciting exhibition that the museum was eager to undertake.
A two-story, timber-frame home more than 200 years old in Ipswich, Massachusetts, was scheduled for demolition in 1963 to alleviate a parking problem on Elm Street. Preservationists in the area knew the significance of the home—built in colonial America and used as a home well after World War II—and fought against its destruction.
The house was saved by Ipswich citizens and it went to the Smithsonian, placed on view in the mid-1960s. Decades later, a new curatorial team wanted to research who lived in the house and curated a new exhibition based on their findings.
“Real estate is more than just a structure, it’s a home,” said Goldberg. “The stories of the occupants are what makes a house a home. We were particularly intrigued by this home as it provided an opportunity for NAR to share the importance of homeownership through the stories of the five families who called this structure home.”
The House, The Exhibit, The Plan
The Smithsonian team approached Goldberg with a plan; the Ipswich house had been painstakingly preserved and the curators investigated the entire history of the house as home to several generations, over 200 years, to display the stories of these families and show how ordinary people participated in the great events and changes throughout American history.
Thus began a 15-year partnership in 2001 between the National Association of Realtors and the Smithsonian. The exhibit serves as a symbol of the role that NAR’s 1.2 million realtor members play in making property ownership and the American Dream a reality for millions of Americans.
As a sign of that continued investment in the American Dream, NAR has extended its sponsorship with the Smithsonian through 2030. Additionally, the Smithsonian will make improvements to update the exhibition with new research, stories and interactive features.
One planned upgrade is an artifact showcase highlighting rotating curated content on various housing themes. In 2018, the content will feature artifacts commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, signed in April 1968, to protect the buyer or renter of a dwelling from seller or landlord discrimination.
Immigrants, community activists and freedom fighters all lived in the house from Ipswich and, through their lives and stories, its preservation helps tell the history of a fledgling nation crafting an identity. The exhibition will continue to be an attraction in the Museum’s new wing “The Nation We Build Together,” unveiled June 28, 2017.
The families that lived in the house were unique and their stories are a small window into the history of American lives throughout the centuries. The Choates, the Dodges and Chance, the Caldwells, the Lynches and the Scotts filled the house with everyday courage and their own stories of our nation’s history.
Understanding the Ipswich Families
In the 1760s, Abraham Choate commissioned this large and elegant house—just 30 miles north of Boston—for his young family with Sarah Choate. The parlor is particularly notable as it created a refined setting for new imported goods and genteel rituals like tea drinking that signaled the family and community’s prosperity within a growing British empire.
Choate sold the house in 1772. Abraham Dodge—a patriot fresh from the battlefield—purchased the house in the midst of the American Revolution where he lived with his family and an enslaved youth named Chance. While Dodge and other patriots achieved the liberty they fought for, what independence would mean for Chance and other enslaved people living in the New England house was not clear.
After the Dodge family, the exhibit looks at the Caldwells from 1822. Josiah and Lucy Caldwell had no children of their own but adopted their niece Margaret while simultaneously leading the Ipswich Anti Slavery Society and hosting meetings in their Elm Street home for the ladies abolition group, the Ipswich Female Anti-Slavery Society. From the parlor, they fought for the immediate abolition of slavery in the South, decades after slavery ended in Massachusetts.
The Caldwells remodeled their 50-year-old home in the Greek Revival style that’s displayed in the National Museum of American History today. Along with façade remodeling, the Caldwells also installed the latest home technology: heating stoves in the fireplaces and a square piano in the parlor.
In the late 1800s, Ipswich was a mill-driven industrial area filled with immigrants pouring in from Europe. Catherine Lynch and her daughter rented half the house—the new owners had split the house into two side-by-side apartments—and bartered laundry services for part of their annual rent, totaling about $50.
The Scotts moved in during the 1940s and helped with the World War II efforts: Mary Scott maintained a victory garden while waiting for news of her sons’ efforts in the service abroad. Her daughter, Annie Scott Lynch, and Annie’s husband Richard moved in with Mary Scott so that Richard could work at the local war materials plant. Annie Scott Lynch worked in a Sylvania factory in the area producing antiaircraft projectiles.
These five families were part of nearly 100 people who lived in the house since its creation, each with their own role in America’s history.
Understanding Your Home’s Historical Value
Every house holds clues to its history. A section of “Within These Walls” Exhibition website is dedicated to helping visitors understand the power to sleuth out the history of their own homes using tools like county registries, historical records, photos and more. These sources can help homeowners see the hidden value in everyday objects. This can be an entertaining activity for families to understand the history and unlock the hidden stories in their own home.
The National Association of Realtors is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
Two rivers run through Washington: the legendary Potomac and its lesser-known sister, the Anacostia. In a city perhaps most famous for political debates and white marble sites, these waterways are a vibrant reminder that D.C. is also a town blessed by Mother Nature.
“People forget you’re never more than a few steps away from nature here, especially if you get out on the water,” said local writer Gayle Putrich, who frequently canoes both wet wonderlands.
Putrich and other boaters ply one of the most historic bodies of water in the country. George Washington surveyed the Potomac—and traveled it to get to his riverside Mount Vernon estate—and British traders used it to ship tobacco back home. The smaller Anacostia, which is just 8.5 miles long and empties into the Potomac at Buzzard Point, was once lined with farms and Native American encampments.
Today, both rivers make a relaxing backdrop for enjoying the outdoors and offer a different way to take in the beauty of the capital city.
Float Your Own Boat
Boating in DC operates seven concessions in locations like Georgetown in D.C. and National Harbor in Maryland. It offers one-hour to one-day rentals of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, canoes and, at some locations, hydro bikes (pontoon-like water cycles). The company also leads guided kayak excursions past the monuments during the day and at twilight. Hot spots to float by range from Old Town Alexandria’s bustling waterfront in Virginia to National Harbor with its glitzy Capital Wheel and Georgetown’s Washington Harbour.
If you want more wind at your back, DC Sail gives beginning lessons from the Gangplank Marina in Southwest D.C., where budding sailors learn to captain a 19-foot Flying Scot in four sessions, and offers weekly “social sails” for $20.
If you’d prefer to have someone else steer, there are multiple ways to float on. Departing from the Gangplank Marina and National Harbor, Spirit Cruises serves up lunch and dinner on a multi-level yacht with panoramic windows, the better for drinking in city and monument views. Also departing from the Gangplank Marina, Odyssey is a low-slung, elegant dining craft designed to slip under all of the Potomac’s bridges. Both vessels offer music and dancing.
DC Water Taxi runs laid-back routes between Georgetown and the National Mall on an open-air boat; it’s ideal for kids or for a quick intro to the city. Potomac Riverboat Company’s taxi travels from Alexandria to National Harbor, the National Mall and Nationals Park. The company’s tours glide by the monuments, along the Alexandria Waterfront and to Mount Vernon, with dogs allowed on some outings.
For more-adventurous cruising, Urban Pirates sails from National Harbor aboard the Relentless, festooned with skull-and-crossbones flags. Costumed, joke-cracking, wannabe Jack Sparrows' entertain on family-friendly sails Wednesdays through Sundays, with weekend nighttime “bring-your-own-grog” booze cruises for adults.
Sometimes, the best way to “soak in” the river is by strolling its waterfront.
“There’s something about how people relax and feel casual by the river,” said Monty Hoffman, one of the developers behind The Wharf D.C., a retail, restaurant and residential complex coming to the Southwest Waterfront in the fall of 2017.
For now, attractions near the Anacostia include Yards Park, which combines green space, a geometric pedestrian bridge, an illuminated obelisk and a wading pool.
Riverfront paths also let you relish the easygoing charms of the water. The Mount Vernon Trail, which follows the Potomac from Theodore Roosevelt Island in Georgetown down to Mount Vernon, meanders past bird-filled wetlands with views of the monuments. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail skirts the Anacostia through both developed and undeveloped areas and is a good choice for bikers, too.
Located near U Street in Northwest D.C., Shaw has undergone a transformation in recent years from a gritty urban outpost to one of the district’s hippest zones. Most notable here is an influx of popular and well-reviewed restaurants that draw the foodie crowd morning, noon and night. But that’s not the area’s only draw. Denizens also descend on cool cocktail lounges, top shops and a happening nightlife scene. Round out any visit to Shaw with these recommendations.
Where to Eat: Burger Joints and Michelin-Starred Restaurants
With so many top-notch restaurants here, it’s best to come with an empty stomach. Follow expats to Chercher for Ethiopian comfort fare (listed in Michelin’s Bibb Gourmand), or indulge in Tasty Burger’s “Big Tasty” paired with a spiked milkshake (we like the “Green Monster” with mint chocolate chips). At Asian-inspired Kyirisan and Michelin-starred Kinship, the dishes are just as Instagram-worthy as they are delicious.
Chercher 1334 9th St. NW, 202.299.9703
Kinship 1015 7th St. NW, 202.737.7700
Kyirisan 1924 8th St. NW, 202.525.2942
Tasty Burger 2108 8th St. NW, 202.768.9292
Shop: From Trends to Local Gems
From indulgent treats to arty kicks, cool duds and edgy art, some of the District’s raddest retail is located right here. Most of the newer shops are located inside The Shay, a retail/residential complex located on the corner of Florida and 8th St. NW. But a quick jog around the area yields plenty of other gems, too.
Buttercream Bakeshop 1250 9th St. NW, 202.735.0102
Bucketfeet 1924 8th St. NW, 202.847.3294
Frank & Oak 1924 8th St. NW, 202.499.1458
Long View Gallery 1234 9th St. NW, 202.232.4788
Drink: Award-Winning Favorites
When it comes to quaffs, Shaw pours some of the city’s best. At Espita, smoky mezcal is the spirit of choice, while at Right Proper, craft suds are on tap (and in tanks). Beard-nominated Columbia Room offers three areas for sipping, but only the handsome Tasting Room (below) requires a reservation.
Columbia Room 124 Blagden Alley NW, 202.316.9396
Espita Mezcaleria 1250 9th St. NW, 202.621.9695
Right Proper Brewing 624 T St. NW, 202.607.2337
Play: Gettin’ Down and Chillin’ Out
There’s no question that Shaw is a whole lotta fun. With historic venues like The Howard, a Duke Ellington fave and a must for fans of D.C.’s very own Go-Go music, how could it not be? For big names and indie acts in an intimate setting, bop on over to 9:30 Club. In the mood to “Netflix and chill”? You can head to any movie theater, but the new Landmark cinema offers the latest flicks, plus a bar for expertly mixed drinks and over-sized leather seats for settling in.
9:30 Club 815 V St. NW, 202.265.0930
The Howard Theatre 620 T St. NW, 202.803.2899
Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema 807 V St. NW, 202.534.1965