This year is the 100th anniversary of Washington’s most beautiful phenomenon: the blossoming of the Japanese cherry trees that were given to the city by Japan. Mandarin Oriental, Washington DC is the capital’s only hotel with views of the Tidal Basin, where the trees explode like clouds of cotton candy in the spring. Extending from the Washington Monument to the US Capitol, the National Mall is DC’s rectangular town square. The Smithsonian Institution’s museums that line the mall include the National Museum of the American Indian (lunch alert: best museum food) , the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, as well as the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Smithsonian’s 137 million or so objects range from chef Julia Child’s kitchen to First Ladies’ dresses. On or near the mall are the major monuments and memorials. The newest, alongside an additional 180 cherry trees, is the Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial on the Tidal Basin. For information about all the memorials, monuments and parks in the city, seek out the knowledgeable park rangers.
In Georgetown, one of the city’s oldest and most charming neighborhoods, boutiques, restaurants and cupcake shops operate out of restored historic town houses. Renowned for its stylish shoes and accessories, Sassanova is no exception. At Lost Boys, instead of a back room, there’s a by-appointment-only Black Room. For men with style, or who want it, the store offers wardrobe consultations and a fully-stocked bar. Next stop is Hugh & Crye for dress shirts that really fit: sizing is based on height and torso width as well as the neck and sleeve. Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Saks anchor a cluster of stores around the DC/Maryland border. Buy a baby gift at Giggle, make-up at MAC Cosmetics, a painted landscape at Zenith Gallery, or a chocolate US Capitol at Krön Chocolatier.
Dedicated to American theater, the nationally renowned Arena Stage has recently reopened after a million-dollar renovation. Two historic and one new building are wrapped together in a ‘curtain wall’ of 370 glass panes. The Newseum is unusual for its entrance fee, but with exhibits such as Pulitzer Prize-winning photography and 15 theater presentations to consider hours pass like minutes here. The long terrace has spectacular views of the US Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile, the National Gallery of Art shows Western art from the Middle Ages. And you can examine birds, Buddhism and the work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei at the Sackler Gallery, which celebrates its 25th year showcasing Asian art and culture with the connecting Freer Gallery.