Living in the Nation’s Capital

Washington DC Capitol building with U.S, flag
The Capitol Building

Moving to D.C.

Living in the Nation’s Capital is an adventure. It all started when I moved to Washington D.C. in August, 2018 for school. Before that, I had visited D.C. a handful of times, mostly on school trips. On those school trips we visited the museums, the White House, and the Capitol. It was Normal fifth grade stuff. And while the monuments and museums are certainly part of the experience of living in D.C., they fade into the background of everyday life when you become a resident here.

What were incredibly special places for me as a fifth grader became places where I need to fight my way through hordes of tourists and school field trip groups to get to ultimate frisbee practice. Because the history of the United States is so prevalent and visible here, it is easy to take it for granted.

The Normalization of Politics

At least three times a week my commute takes me past the iconic Lincoln Memorial. My university ultimate frisbee team practices on the National Mall next to the renowned Reflecting Pool. A few weeks ago, HBO shut down part of Virginia Avenue near my apartment because they were filming a show about Watergate. And within a few blocks of my apartment are the Embassies of Egypt, Argentina, Spain, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, and Qatar. The International Monetary Fund and the State Department are a five-minute walk. I and many people I know have interned in some capacity for the Federal Government. Election night watch parties are a common occurrence, even in off years.

Breathing Rarified Air

I lived across the street from Kamala Harris before she was elected Vice President. I saw Elizabeth Warren jogging on the Mall with her dog. This became a normal part of life. Waiting for the Presidential motorcade to pass is more noteworthy for being an annoyance than for possibly getting to see Joe Biden. D.C. is a different city for the people who live here. Politicians are no longer mythical figures on T.V. They are your neighbors.

Catch a Museum

After living amidst the buzz, the Federal Government stops being exciting. So, we have to seek other sources of entertainment. There are many Smithsonian museums devoid of throngs of fifth graders. The Renwick Gallery is my favorite. It has a gallery of rotating exhibits featuring work from younger, less established artists. Another good one is the Hirshhorn. It can get crowded, but you generally won’t see any field trip groups while you are there. The Hirshhorn holds the permanent collection of Joseph Hirshhorn in addition to rotating modern art exhibits. All the Smithsonian museums are completely free to access. They have been free since 1846. However, some museums, like the African American History Museum, require you to reserve a free ticket.

D.C. Sports

It could be argued Washington sports teams have a reputation for being bad, at least recently… Sometimes the Nationals’ World Series win in 2019 and Capitals’ Stanley Cup win in 2018 seem like distant memories. Fortunately, this is reflected in D.C. team ticket prices. Wizards, Nationals, and D.C. United tickets are all pretty cheap. In addition, most of the stadiums are super easy to get to and in great neighborhoods. Capital One Arena, where the Wizards and Capitals play, is in the middle of Chinatown, and Nat’s Park and Audi Field are in Navy Yard. Chinatown has a bunch of great Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, such as Pho 88, as well as bars like Jackpot. On game days Navy Yard comes alive with fans flocking to places like Dacha Beer Garden and Swizzler. What used to be one of the rougher parts of town, the Navy Yard is now one of the hottest areas in D.C. with great restaurants and high-end condos.

A Night Out

Adams Morgan has been the place for young counterculture people since before my parents lived in D.C. twenty-five years ago. It is still host to many great bars and restaurants. Colombia Station has live Jazz music and Jumbo Slice Pizza has slices bigger than your head. All the bars turn into clubs after 10 p.m., so plan your trip accordingly. NOMA and the H St. corridor are home to some great restaurants like The Big Board, but walking around the neighborhood is not as pleasant at night because H St. can get pretty busy.

Brunch on the Waterfront

After a night of partying, walking around Georgetown is a great way to clear your head. If you are hungry, the many brunch spots, like Call Your Mother, are a great way to wait in line for a breakfast sandwich that is totally worth the thirty-minute wait. If you order online ahead of time you can reduce the wait time. You can take your sandwich to the Georgetown Waterfront where people spread out blankets and watch the activity on the Potomac River while listening to music or reading. Alternatively, you can walk through the residential part of Georgetown where there are beautiful old houses you can fantasize about owning.

Living in the Nation’s Capital

One of my favorite memories of D.C. is of walking through Georgetown. It was the morning of a warm fall day but the air hadn’t quite heated up yet. The leaves had already changed color and were beginning to fall off the trees in a fiery-shaded flurry. It had rained the night before, so everything smelled like wet leaves. Most people hadn’t started their day yet and it was quiet. I remember standing in the brilliant sun, as a breeze shook some dewy leaves from a tree across the street, just thinking. Sometimes our Nation’s Capital is at its best when you retreat from the craziness of the tourist crowds and political stage and experience D.C.’s less-traveled neighborhoods. If you are visiting, I hope you’ll take some time to explore my D.C.

Ready to slow down from the excitement of the city? Check out our blog post on Smoky Mountains National Park here!

by Ben Forest

*Note: this article is not sponsored by any of the businesses mentioned.