Meg McKinney / Styling Rose Nguyen
Visitors choose from a wide range of cultural opportunities from free concerts to star-studded opening nights at the Kennedy Center.
Long, blissful evenings rank among summer's sweetest gifts. We live for the hours of leisure when the workday ends, the heat abates, and the stars come out to play. Few Southern cities offer more abundant nightlife than Washington, D.C. It's not a stay-up-all-night city or a roll-up- the-sidewalks-at-5 p.m. small town. No, this city is more of a sophisticated lady, with enough cultural treasures, restaurants, and activities to fill a lifetime of summer nights. Whatever you like to do, you can find it here. From star-studded events to back-alley music clubs, D.C. offers the ultimate entertainment package.
We know tackling a big city can be intimidating, especially one with so many options, so we've mapped out three itineraries to help you get started. The first makes for a dreamy spectacular you'll never forget. The next is a more casual, blue-jeans-and-big-fun kind of night, while the third presents a kid-friendly format for those with family in tow.
The Lap of Luxury. Check in to the Willard InterContinental Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue; 1-800-827-1747. Just two blocks from the White House, this 12-story Beaux Arts grande dame hosts stars from every realm--U.S. Presidents, A-list entertainers, foreign heads of state. Rates drop in August, with packages starting at $229. For a less expensive alternative, stay at Hotel Monaco at 700 F Street NW., another architectural beauty. Weekend rates can fall as low as $149; shop around for the best deal. Call (202) 628-7177.
Divine Dining. Fine restaurants downtown and in the Georgetown area cater to theatergoers, but few do it with the aplomb of chef/owner Robert Wiedmaier at Marcel's; 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., (202) 296-1166. For $48, you get a three-course pretheater meal (5-6:45 p.m.) featuring to-die-for French-Belgian cuisine. Entrées include items such as roasted chicken and pan-seared Norwegian salmon, though the menu changes frequently.
After dinner, a chauffeur provided by Marcel's will whisk you into a Presidential-style limo for the drive to the Kennedy Center, then bring you back after the performance for no extra charge. You're even welcome to postpone your dessert until you return. Then you can savor your sweets while listening to the enchanting Alex Jenkins tickle the ivories on the baby grand in the restaurant's wine bar.
On With the Show. You can't help but feel a ripple of excitement as you approach the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This oasis of culture stands as a memorial to the slain President, offering about 2,500 performances each year, including selected shows presented free daily.
A summer highlight at the center is the Tony Award-winning musical The Producers, which runs through August 22 (ticket office, (202) 467-4600). The 2004-2005 season begins in earnest in September, with opening nights for both the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera.
No matter which performance you choose, you'll feel like royalty as you walk the red carpet and sip Champagne in the Center's Grand Foyer, which holds the 7-foot bronze bust of President Kennedy. After the performance, take the elevator to the Roof Terrace for one of the most spectacular views of D.C.
Not Sleepy Yet? Head to the Willard's Round Robin Bar for a nightcap. Activity surrounds the circular mahogany bar, but you'll want to secure a seat by the window so you can watch Washington go by. The power elite are so often seen here that some refer to this as the "other Oval Office." If you pick up a snippet of Beltway gossip, be sure to call us.