Whether visitors want to try one of the first family’s favorite restaurants, discover a sense of history or escape from the crowd to find a museum off the beaten path, Washington is the nation’s cultural capital this weekend for inauguration visitors.
The presidential swearing-in on Monday, after all, is only a brief moment in time. So, hundreds of thousands of visitors will be searching for what else to do in a city that has evolved even during the Barack Obama era.
Beyond the big-ticket balls, the best place to party may be in the capital’s neighborhoods, said historian Jane Freundel Levey of the group Cultural Tourism D.C. In the 19th century, she said, it was the citizens of Washington who put on the inaugural parties and paid for them. And the heavily Democratic city will be partying this time, too.
“Our neighborhoods are going to be great for restaurants and for nightlife, and people will be celebrating,” she said. “You know, Washingtonians do care a lot about what happens nationally, and we care a lot about who is president.”
Levey’s group has installed heritage trails in many neighborhoods over the years with sidewalk signs to illustrate and guide tours of sites linked to local and national history.
The U Street and H Street neighborhoods will likely be gathering places by day and night during the inauguration, Levey said. Visitors will find a more refined restaurant scene across the city and some new destinations that have sprung up over the last four years.
Here are a few pointers to guide the way:
Where to Eat
Restaurants across the city will brag that the president and first lady have dined in them. Tourism officials have put together an itinerary for visitors to “Play in President Obama’s Backyard” with some of their favorite dining spots.
Organic eatery Restaurant Nora, Blue Duck Tavern and BLT Steak have all been Obama picks for date nights. During the campaign, the president took supporters from battleground states to dinner in the hip H Street Northeast neighborhood.
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