As my flight descended into Reagan National Airport, my plane turned and tilted so that I was right above the White House and the Washington Monument. They stood beside the glimmering Potomac. My eyes widened to take it in. Then I remembered; and I laughed. Shut. Down.
There’s nothing like a government shutdown to make the Capitol Building look a little grimy. I was about to visit a D.C. where the Smithsonian, the National Library, the Jefferson Memorial were all closed. But there is so much more to D.C. than fancy libraries and over-sized statues of white men.
Brunch hard in Silver Spring: Silver Spring is technically in Maryland, but you’ll still find the same diverse eateries, quirky bars, and flustered nine-to-fivers that you’ll find in D.C. So if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, I suggest brunching it up in Silver Spring. Start it off by making your own Bloody Mary/Maria at the Daily Dish. Then get donuts at Jackie’s, which is worth a visit just to check out the eclectic interior design. Top if off by stopping by at Kefa Cafe, a small coffee shop run by two Ethiopian sisters. A little coffee and a gentle neighborhood vibe will pull you out of your food coma.
Hang out on the Potomac: Once in Georgetown, follow Wisconsin St. south until you hit Georgetown Waterfront Park. Walk along the Potomac for excellent views of the Key Bridge and the Kennedy Center. If you are feeling particularly adventurous rent a kayak at the Key Bridge Boathouse.
Eat food with meaning on U Street: U Street is nightlife, hipster, and historic D.C. all rolled in to one awesome street. First get some historic chili at Ben’s Chili Bowl. This place has been a part of the U Street scene throughout the area’s tumultuous history–from the race riots of the 60s to its recent revitalization. Shutdown or no shutdown, this place is right up there with the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. Also check out Busboys and Poets, a socially and environmentally conscious restaurant. Come for a vegan or vegetarian meal. Stay to browse their alternative bookstore or for a slam poetry reading in the back room.
Watch adorable kids play soccer at Meridian Park: This gorgeous 12 acre park in Columbia Heights is home to beautiful architecture and great views. It’s many fountains (which were unfortunately turned off during my visit…) and maze of stairs feel like Europe. Technically Meridian Park and all other D.C. parks are closed during the shutdown since they are under federal jurisdiction. But let’s be real. You can’t tell people to not come to work and then tell them they can’t go to the park either!
The orange barriers at the park’s entrance had been pushed aside and the park was full of joggers, families, and cute kids playing soccer. Plus there is a stunning view of the (now closed) Washington Monument.
Look for city cats: From H Street to U Street to Columbia Heights to Georgetown, D.C. is full of beautiful row houses. Which make good homes for city cats. Wander the many D.C. neighborhoods and keep your eyes open for the local felines.