The nation’s capital may designate Congress and the White House as its logical center, but its beating heart may well be Dupont Circle. Here, Pierre L’Enfant’s vision for a city dotted with bustling public squares comes to life. On any given day, buskers, activists, chess players, even lindy hop dancers gather around Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon’s majestic 1921 fountain adorned with figures symbolizing the sea, the stars and the wind. Nearby, vibrant restaurants and boutiques nestle among 19th-century mansions, beckoning visitors to indulge and linger just a little bit longer in this bohemian enclave north of the White House.
Many of the Gilded Age mansions in this historic district have been preserved for the public. Woodrow Wilson House provides a glimpse into the 28th president’s domestic life and offers occasional vintage game nights (attire from the era is encouraged). Anderson House, Amb. Larz Anderson’s residence and now HQ for the Society of the Cincinnati, lends insight into the American Revolution with artifacts and exhibits. Visitors could spend an entire day at the Mansion on O Street, a former grand dame turned storehouse and B&B filled to the rafters with eccentric objects, all for sale.
Whether gourmet or mom-and-pop, the area’s many eateries satisfy any culinary craving. Slurp noodles at Asia 54, or French classics at Bistrot du Coin. At Komi, publicity-shy Johnny Monis cooks up a rare gourmet experience, while bon vivant celeb chef José Andrés goes fast-casual at Beefsteak. Filter coffeehouse brews high-quality comfort like pour overs and flat whites, and plates up a variety of delectable pastries.
Clotheshorses rack up instant faves along Connecticut Avenue. Women score designer deals at consignment shop Secondi and benefit from a personal touch at Betsy Fisher. Precious gems sparkle at Secrète Jewelry, while wallet-friendly baubles beckon at Bloom. Alton Lane offers dapper gents wise counsel for made-to-measure and custom menswear.
Whether cooking or crafting, find tools and inspiration for varied interests. Mediterranean Way taps into olive oils and gourmet foods. DIYers weave a beeline to Looped Yarn Works for skeins and notions and Beadazzled for African trade beads and crystals. Stalwart Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe catalogs the latest bestsellers, while Tabletop puts the designs on mod home decor.
Dupont Circle is home to The Phillips Collection, the country’s first museum of modern art, and also features a palette of smaller galleries with intriguing collections, too. At Marsha Mateyka, pick up pieces by Sam Gilliam and Jim Sanborn and view sketches by Craig Dennis, Jae Ko and others through Nov. 14. Founded in 1973, Fondo del Sol displays pre-Colombian and Caribbean art among other genres in seven galleries, in addition to maintaining a film and video archive of more than 200 works. IA&A at Hillyer champions under-represented local artists. Once a month, these studios and more open their doors with food, music and drinks. For details, visit firstfridaydupont.org.