DjangoCon 2012 - Life in DC

8 August 2012

As long as you're in town, you might as well see some of the sights, right?

Smithsonian

When people come into town, I always point them at the Smithsonian. It's an awesome set of museums that are completely free. You can spend a week going through them and still not see all of the exhibits. They're also only closed two days a year, and neither of those days are during the conference.

    Some important notes:
  • You have to go through security to get in. They're going to poke around in your bag with a stick. Some places have metal detectors.
  • The art museums are super-uppity about what you can bring in. If you think about it, this makes sense. Their exhibits aren't behind glass. They have a bag check so you can stash your stuff if needed.
  • The museums open at 10am. One of the buildings, the castle, opens early, but there's not much to do there besides drink a coffee and sit in the garden.
  • Pictures are allowed! Bring your cameras and camcorders!
  • Almost all of the museums ring the Mall. The Mall is a big strip of grass in front of the Washington Monument. It does not have any stores.
  • The zoo isn't even remotely close Mall. There's a metro stop called "Woodley Park-Zoo", but this is the stop is at the bottom of the world's biggest hill. Get off at Cleveland Park instead.

If you're a gamer, make sure to check out The Art of Video Games at the American Art Museum. If gaming isn't your thing, there's still plenty to see.

Other museums

I adore the International Spy Museum and the Museum of Crime and Punishment. They film America's Most Wanted in the latter! You can get deals for both museums off of Groupon on a regular basis, so keep an eye out for those.

Nearby, there's also a Madame Tussauds if you want to go look at creepy wax people. Also, the National Academy of Sciences has a museum that's super cheap and has some awesomely detailed exhibits. It's not a huge museum, but it's packed with information. They're closed on Tuesdays, so plan accordingly.

And there's so many more! We have no shortage of museums.

Monuments!

If you want to see monuments, buy a step-on-step-off tour. Seriously. The monuments are NOT close to each other, and some of them are surrounded by highway. The buses come by every thirty minutes, which is about how long a monument is likely to entertain most people.

I wanna run!

I confess: I'm not a runner. I've toyed with Couch-to-5k a few times, but the summer always beats me. I did, however, find this trail right by the hotel. amk also recommended Bike Washington for some multi-purpose trails.

I need to go shopping

You forgot to pack socks. We're hit by a freak snow storm. They lost your luggage. Your kids will not let you back in the house without souvenirs. The vendors ran out of your t-shirt size. It's cool. We've got you covered. We're right by the Crystal City Shops. They're easy to miss because the shops are hidden inside the buildings at Crystal City, behind the restaurants.

If your needs aren't covered by those stores, you can ride one metro stop over to Pentagon City Mall and pick up almost everything you need, from clothes to Apple connectors. They even have a Costco, if you need a palate of danishes or something.

Next: FOOD

Yes, you want to eat and possibly hit up a bar while you're here. I'm still compiling that list! Locals, shout out your favorites so I can add them.

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Comments

1 Ben says...

As a former Crystal City resident, now living in Colorado, very few days go by that I don't miss Kabob Palace, on Eads & 23rd, just across the Hwy from the Crystal City commercial & hotel complex. I challenge anyone to find better pakistani/afghani (not sure which) stewed chick-peas and marinated chicken, lamb and beef kabobs. This place is a 100% hole-in-the-wall, paper-plates kind of place but its a must try if you're into spicy food that lands somewhere between middle-eastern and Indian and want to get full. 8-12 dollars a plate. Don't pass on the chickpeas. (Personally, I forego other side options besides the standard, delicious rice and get double chickpeas). Serving sizes are big.

Other than that, there are various commercial & chain restaurants & bars on the East (commercial) side of Highway 1 aka Jeff Davis hwy--from Chipotle on up to Ruth's Chris. A few of them are in the underground mall. You've probably heard of most of them, or they at least look like some generic commercial restaurant in your town, since many are national or regional chains. Personally, I like Ted's Montana Grill when I'm craving a good overpriced buffalo burger, and McCormick & Schmicks (or however its spelled) for high-end seafood. Other than that, I've tried a ton of the restaurants on that side of the Hwy (which is where the conference is), but nothing really stands out to me that you wouldn't already have an opinion about.

When you cross Highway 1 on 23rd street, things get interesting. There's a "restaurant row" on 23rd street that offers a bunch of non-highbrow non-chain bars and restaurants, including foods of various ethnicities. Some aren't good at all (the sushi place, mexican place). Some are really good (Tagolio's pizza). My personal favorite is the three-story Crystal City Sports Pub. Good food, and feels like what a sports pub should be.

Also. A tip to the unaware: if you get lured into the "Crystal City Restaurant" on 23rd Street by one of their "New York Strip" specials expecting a nice steak dinner, you might be a bit surprised by the strippers. Or maybe that's what you're after.

If you have access to a car or want to dish for a cab, The Carlyle, in the Shirlington area of Arlington, is one of the best restaurants in the area.

Restaurants in DC proper-- there are a lot of good ones-- goes beyond the scope of this comment.

Oh, and there are a lot of good ethnic restaurants in the DC area, but not Mexican food.

Posted at 3:26 p.m. on August 8, 2012

2 Ben says...

PS, for Kabob palace, they were doing so well that they opened up a new restaurant . . . right next door. Interesting business decision. The new one is called "Kabob palace family restaurant" and is more of a sit-down full service place. I recommend the original, non "family restaurant" one. The food is the same but they go through it a lot faster there so it usually tastes better.

I wish my startup had budget for me to go to Django Con this year! DC is awesome.

Posted at 3:34 p.m. on August 8, 2012

3 Ben says...

PPS, Its 24 hours.

Posted at 3:37 p.m. on August 8, 2012

4 Steve Holden says...

Over the river in DC, for a swank meal the Capital Grill is hard to beat. Rashika is an innovative and friendly (but not cheap) indian meal.

Close by the hotel there's a Ted's Montana Grill that serves hearty meals and has a great bar. Legal Seafood is also a reliable dining experience, with a great raw bar for those who like it. Hope these reminders help.

Posted at 5:06 p.m. on August 8, 2012

5 Ben Lopatin says...

Kabob Palace? Yes, yes, and yes. Across the street: Cafe Pizzaiolo is worth a trip. One Metro stop over: Lebanese Taverna (amazing hummus and shwarma).

If you want something amazing and local, get theeself to Court House/Rosslyn and to Ray's the Steaks (Court House), Ray's Hellburger I and II (Rosslyn) and Rays the Third (Rosslyn). Medvedev liked the jalapeño topped burger.

As for bars, probably a good bet to go into DC by Metro or cab, although the aforementioned CCR is rumoted to be getting local brewery Port City Brewing's Optimal Wit on tap soon.

Posted at 6:11 p.m. on August 8, 2012

6 Rosie says...

As far as sightseeing goes, I like to take visitors to see the FDR and MLK monuments at night. After 9pm or so, it's easy to park right next to the FDR monument and walk around the Tidal Basin to see the new MLK memorial. They're open until 11pm, IIRC.

Also, Kabob Palace = Yes.

Posted at 3:52 p.m. on August 13, 2012

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