One of the unsung heroes of the Annual and Spring Meetings is our host city itself. Over the past decades, Washington D.C. has undergone a remarkable transformation into a vibrant, cosmopolitan city with a truly international character. Let New Yorkers and San Franciscans sneer at this “provincial government town.” Washingtonians know their city has it all.
Even amidst the whirlwind of meetings and events, delegates should try to sneak away and experience some of what D.C. has to offer. Here are a few recommendations for how to spend your precious hours in the nation’s capital.
If this is your first visit to D.C. and you only have time to see one monument, make it the Lincoln Memorial. The crown jewel of the National Mall is a short walk from the Fund and a powerful tribute to America’s 16th president. If you follow Lincoln’s gaze eastward, you will see one of the most iconic vistas of the Mall, immortalized in countless photographs and films. Be sure to look for the plaque commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps below Lincoln’s statue.
The Lincoln Memorial is also a natural starting point for a day of touring the monuments and museums. Capital Bikeshare now offers 24-hour memberships for $8, making it an affordable and convenient option for those who want to tour the Mall, or even the broader city, by bike.
The Renwick Gallery is home to the Smithsonian’s collection of contemporary craft and decorative art. Located steps away from the White House, it's an under-the-radar choice featuring some challenging and unconventional exhibitions. Best of all, it’s just a few minutes’ walk from the Fund. Admission is free.
The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery “tells the diverse story of America through leaders, rebels, artists, entrepreneurs, and other prominent personalities who shaped our culture.” This favorite among Washingtonians is a 25-minute walk from the IMF, but provides a rewarding perspective on the American experience. A self-guided tour can be found on the museum’s website. Admission is free.
For those with a bit more time on their hands, the Georgetown Waterfront is a popular spot for tourists, locals, and students alike to take in the breeze off the Potomac. We recommend combining your visit to the Waterfront with some shopping on M Street and dinner at Il Canale, home to D.C.’s most authentic Italian pizza and desserts. Leopold’s Kafe also comes highly recommended.
A river boat tour of the monuments can provide a striking perspective of the city, particularly while the autumn leaves are turning. A number of boat tour providers offer a variety of options. One interesting choice is the boat cruise to Old Town Alexandria. Old Town’s historic King Street offers more than 160 independent retailers and 100 restaurants. It’s also easily accessible by Metro—though where’s the fun in that?
For many travelers, the only way to experience a city is through its restaurants. Washington has long played second fiddle to America’s foodie meccas of New York and Los Angeles. But D.C. is finally getting the recognition it deserves. It was named “Restaurant City of the Year” by Bon Appétit magazine, which praised the “fearlessness” of the city’s chefs.
Recommending restaurants in a city as diverse and dynamic as D.C. is best left to the professionals. Bon Appétit’s city guide provides a wealth of options. The seasonal rankings by Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema and the Post’s 40 Essential Dishes are must reads.
Adventurous diners should check out Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide. The George Mason University economist is a longstanding chronicler of the D.C. area’s ethnic dining scene (much of which exists in the suburbs, where rents are lower). He applies an economist’s rigor to his recommendations—the General Remarks section of his blog is both insightful and controversial.