Washington, D.C., is never more inviting than at Christmastime. It seems as if the whole city is ready to set aside business and make merry during the holiday season. There's no shortage of things for visitors to do either. The arts season is in full swing; plus, the city's fine hotels, restaurants, and shopping venues have decked their halls with seasonal finery. So what are you waiting for? Head to D.C. for a star-spangled holiday.
Fun on Friday
This time of year, we prefer a hotel close to the White House. There are several chains nearby, but if you want to splurge, check in to the elegant Willard Inter-Continental. The grand Beaux Arts-style hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue served as the temporary home for 10 Presidents and stood as a silent witness to many of history's pivotal moments. Rates for a standard room start at $199; (202) 628-9100.
After you've settled in, put on your walking shoes, and head for the United States Botanic Garden at the base of the Capitol. Poinsettias and Christmas greenery brighten the newly renovated conservatory. A spin around the ice-skating rink at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is guaranteed to put you in the holiday spirit.
At dusk, walk to the Ellipse in front of the White House where the National Christmas Tree stands. Unless you live in D.C., you probably won't get a seat at the Christmas Pageant of Peace concert and tree-lighting ceremony on December 5. No matter. The Colorado blue spruce stays lit throughout the holiday season, and local musical groups perform each evening from 6 to 8:30 p.m. through the end of December, except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve.
For dinner, walk to Ten Penh, an Asian-Pacific-flavored restaurant named for its location on the corner of 10th and Pennsylvania. Innovative dishes include Red Thai Curry Shrimp and pork short ribs served with a sweet-and-spicy cucumber relish. When you've cleaned your plate, ask a cabbie to take you to B. Smith's at Union Station for live jazz.
Begin your day at Eastern Market, just south of the Capitol. Your mission is to locate the famous Blue Bucks, buckwheat pancakes topped with blueberries. Arrive early, or you'll wait in line.