My summer series, Life As A Twenty-Something In continues today in the nation’s capitol. Here to show us around life in Washington D.C. is my friend Michelle. She and I were college dorm neighbors, study abroad partners, and Thailand travel buddies. Michelle is nothing if not an adventurer with an “I’ll try it at least once” attitude and good heart. Take, for example, her months-long volunteer trip in Uganda last year.
Michelle and me and our hued helmets on a motorbike in Pai, Thailand in 2009.
Having never been to D.C., I’m especially excited about peeking into Michelle’s life there. We actually just booked tickets to D.C. for the fall, so this is a bit of vacation teaser for me. Here’s Michelle’s story on life in the nation’s capitol.
I wish I could tell you my life in DC consisted of weekly pedicures with Michelle Obama, or that I’m the real Claire Underwood, but I have to save something for my 30s, right?
In all reality, DC is a pretty great place to live in your 20s, and I fully admit I was a skeptic when I moved here from NYC last summer. Turns out no skyscrapers and a population of less than 8 million isn’t actually a deal-breaker for me!
Here are some highlights from my first (almost) year in the nation’s capital.
Young professionals in DC are a little bit obsessed with happy hour, and I’m becoming one of them. Basically every restaurant that serves alcohol offers happy hour, and most people actually get out of work in time to enjoy those 4 – 7pm specials!
My personal favorite is the Greek place around the corner from my office, Kellari Taverna, which offers free bread and cheese at their happy hour. Literally a giant wheel of cheese sits on the bar and you can carve off as much as you want. Does life get any better?
DC is a very active city. Pedestrians seem to outnumber drivers, and I see people running outside every day no matter how bitter cold (it actually got cold here this year!) or densely humid it is.
One popular form of “exercise” among 20-somethings is social sports, which amount to any combination of vaguely competitive team sports and extremely competitive flip cup.
I decided to see what all the hype was about so last fall I joined an evening kickball league (complete with glow-in-the-dark necklaces, bases, and balls) played on the National Mall. I’m not the most athletic, but seeing the towering Washington Monument on one side of the field and the glowing Capitol on the other made my fumbles in the outfield seem more trivial…okay let’s be honest, I mostly ran away from the ball so I barely had a chance to fumble, but it was still an awesome experience!
Washington Monument during the day seen from the World War II Memorial. My kickball games were on the green on the other side of the monument.
Living in DC as a 20-something on a budget, I really appreciate the Smithsonian, which consists of almost 20 FREE museums and galleries, and of course the National Zoo. One of my favorite exhibits right now is the First Ladies at the Museum of American History, which highlights not only the ornate gowns worn by everyone from Frances Cleveland to Jacqueline Kennedy, but also the incredible contributions these woman made to our country.
Before the evolution of the crop top…Silk evening gown worn by Frances Cleveland. (Photo credit: Smithsonian)
Hint for tourists: Most of the museums line the Mall, which doesn’t have the best food options, but the hidden gem is the cafe inside the Museum of the American Indian. Their delicious “indigenous cuisine of the Americas” is the perfect way to recharge during a day of Smithsonian-hopping!
A city is nothing without good food, and DC’s restaurant scene just keeps getting better. The U Street/14th Street area I live near was “up and coming” until recently (14th Street was a red-light district until the turn of the century), but now it’s a destination with new restaurants opening almost weekly.
Some of my DC favorites are brunch at Founding Farmers (because what better way to start your Sunday than with beignets drizzled with chocolate, caramel, and raspberry sauce), homemade pasta at Lupo Verde, and Mediterranean tapas, particularly the spanakopita, at Zaytinya.
Yum, yum, and yum! Beignets with three delicious dipping sauces from Founding Farmers. (Photo courtesy of Washington City Paper, because I ate mine too quickly to take my own photo!)
I’m not talking environmentally green (though there is a 5-cent charge for plastic bags here, so we’re doing our part). I’m talking about real old-fashioned nature green. For a city, I think DC has a lot of it. I love walking around my neighborhood admiring the lush gardens covering the front yards of all the brightly-colored row houses.
The scenery on a recent stroll around my ‘hood.
I do miss living 10 minutes from Central Park, but my neighborhood park, Meridian Hill Park, plus the nearby Rock Creek Park and the National Mall, just about make up for it!
Reading by the cascading waterfall in Meridian Hill Park is my ideal Sunday afternoon.
With so many foreign affairs entities based in DC, as well as ambassadors from around the world, the city has a truly global atmosphere. That international reach is the main reason I moved here, since DC is the place to be for international development work unless you go abroad.
Day to day it’s easy to forget how many cultures are actually represented here, but luckily the best event of the year, aka Passport DC, exists to remind us by offering inside access to dozens of embassies. I recently attended my first embassy day and experienced the sights, sounds and tastes of Venezuela, Iraq, Turkey, Peru, Kazakhstan, and more!
Around the world in a day – (clockwise from top left) Iraq, Australia, Venezuela, Philippines. (Photos courtesy of Anna Schumacher.)
(Practically) neighbors with the Obamas
I recently got into running, and my current route takes me past the White House, which is a little over a mile down the street from my apartment. Nothing makes me feel more like a local than jogging past all the tourists milling around the White House lawn on a Saturday morning.
Living near the White House also means occasional encounters with the presidential motorcade. I’m sure it will get old soon enough, especially waiting five minutes to cross the street until the long line of police cars and black SUVs have passed, but for now I still find it exciting. I was always really bad at spotting celebrities in NYC, but you definitely can’t miss the motorcade!
Fun fact – you never know exactly who is behind those tinted windows, but you can always distinguish Obama’s motorcade from Biden’s or anyone else’s because the President’s always includes an ambulance.
In Summary…When are you moving here?
I hope this post gave you a bit more insight into life in DC. I keep thinking of more highlights I could have added, like the cherry blossoms and Jazz in the Garden and the Trader Joe’s that just opened two blocks from my apartment…But you’ll just have to come to DC to uncover the rest of the treasures yourself!
Okay, this post has done it. I am all sorts of jazzed about visiting D.C. for the first time this fall! We just booked our tickets last week, so perfect timing, Michelle. Thanks for showing us around the capitol! Stay tuned for Becca’s tour of NYC next week!