We see Level 1 as the first-time Washington visitor - take them to the Mall and enjoy some of the Smithsonian museums, look at some monuments, brunch at Eastern Market, admire the White House, go up to the W Hotel balcony, stroll in Georgetown, and see something on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.
Level 2 is the returning Washington visitor - they've done the Level 1 stuff, so they advance to museums beyond the Smithsonian (eg the Newseum), perhaps take a walk round Roosevelt Island, explore 14th Street and Adams Morgan dining, go to a storytelling show like Perfect Liars Club or Speakeasy DC...
Level 3 is the been-to-visit-you-in-DC-several-times visitor. And this blog is dedicated to what I did with these seasoned visitors last week...
As I've confessed in the past, it took me over two years of Washington living before I visited Dumbarton Oaks Gardens, despite it being named one of National Geographic's top 10 gardens in the world - and it being at the top of my street! My parents were dazzled by its prettiness and we spent a delightful two hours strolling around the grounds. There are still lots of flowers, and great views. But not satisfied, we sought further and more obscure horticultural delight in Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. These Gardens are not only free, they are absolutely beautiful at this time of year, and we had a spectacular stroll down the paths and boardwalk.
It's always lovely to sample some of DC's arts scene with visitors but my parents' visit fell during an unusual theatrical lull. So it was with some trepidation that we ventured to Ford's Theater to see Driving Miss Daisy. I have never seen a show I enjoyed at Ford's Theatre. Until now. I stand corrected. Driving Miss Daisy was a quiet delight - excellent script, set, direction and acting combined for a really charming, compelling show. Sorry - it closed yesterday. But I'll be keeping a better eye on Ford's Theater from now on.
For spoken word, we went to the National Geographic for what turned out to be an excellent panel of some of DC's top chefs, talking entertainingly about some of the challenges of the restaurant industry - and debating these thoughtfully too. There was a reception afterwards catered by DC Central Kitchen, and given we'd all been shown a documentary about their work, this was an evening that was interesting, entertaining and feel-good. I love National Geographic Live events. Here's what's coming up. I also sent them to an event at the Jewish Literary Festival while I was at work and by all accounts it was a success - the festival is on til Wednesday.
In terms of dining, we of course managed two brunches. One at the always-excellent Bombay Club, as a visit there has become a family tradition. But the following Sunday we started a new tradition at the probably-best-Sunday-brunch-buffet-in-town delight of Farmers Fishers Bakers. Though my favorite dining-with-parents experience this week was also the fulfillment of a recent dream: ordering the spectacular 10-cheese platter at Sona Creamery. It did not disappoint. What else did we eat? We had excellent grilled cheese sandwiches from Righteous Cheese at Union Market and went on a veritable gelato crawl around DC - the declared winner was the lovely Dolcezza factory just behind Union Market, where we enjoyed a 'tasting menu' of four amazing freshly made gelato flavors. We tried to check out the new Georgetown restaurant Mama Rouge, which, it turns out, is not for vegetarians (we had to leave as there was nothing for us to eat but cold noodles). And we had a drink at the new Georgetown Piano Bar which was quite pleasant on an early weeknight (except for the 100% unnecessary, ambience-killing televisions), but a bit too party for us at the weekends... NB I did not lose weight during my parents' visit...
And we even managed to fit in bowling at Pinstripes (lots of fun), re-seeing Pride at the cinema (my favorite film this year), beer tasting at Glenn's Garden Market, and spicy cocktails at Harold Black.
No Level 3 visit is complete without a day trip, and ours was to Baltimore. A speedy 45 minute-ish train trip brought us to the city, and soon afterwards, we were sipping coffee in a cool Italian coffeeshop in Little Italy (the nicest Little Italy I've seen in the US, incidentally), before stepping onto Segways for a tourist-tastic but embarrassingly delightful tour around the city. I can't think of a better way to see Baltimore on a sunny day and my parents were duly charmed by the Harbor, Federal Hill, and Fell's Point. We then lunched in Little Italy, and walked over the Everyman Theatre to see a matinee of Grounded, which was excellent and is on til November 16th. A successful day out!
And finally, of course, DC has so much great stuff to offer that there's no shame in reverting to Level 1. With the Washington Monument reopening, we'd been waiting for my parents' visit to go up to the top. Sunday was the day. My lovely wife went down to join the line for the same-day ticket office that opens at 8:30am each day, and got tickets (free) for that afternoon. We walked there via the Lincoln Memorial, then ascended in a charming old elevator right to the top, where we got a chance to peek out the windows that you can see as little slits from afar - amazing, exciting 360 degree views of Washington and much further. Definitely the best views to be had in the city, and not busy or unpleasant at all due to their ticketing system. We were particularly entertained to see the sand portrait on the Mall that was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and can only be viewed from the Monument (or from a plane flying into National!) Absolutely worth a look. And of course, where did we have champagne afterwards? The rooftop patio at the W. Because why not.
Aside from all the parent fun, my lovely wife and I also got to the HRC National Dinner, an extravaganza of 3200 people eating, drinking, and fundraising - while listening to Bill Clinton, Elton John, Yeardley Smith, Jennifer Hudson, and others - and then dancing the night away. I had a really excellent time. And kudos to my lovely wife for getting up early the following morning for her heroic cycle to the Washington Monument the following morning to get tickets while I went back to sleep. Ahem.
What's coming up that sounds cool this week?
Mon 27 Oct - Ri Ra has a free book reading by Irish Author Eimear McBride and there's a free rehearsed reading of play Should've about science, ethics, and whodunnit... worth attending for the cool venue alone. I love the theatre at the National Academy of Sciences. The reading is a collaboration with Studio Theatre.
Tue 28th Oct - Has this week's blog put you in the mood for gelato tasting, or made you want to visit the Dolcezza factory? Do both, plus learn the science of gelato and sip cocktails at this cool Periodic Table tasting event.
Wed 29th Oct - Story League has assembled some of DC's funniest stories for a storytelling evening with lots of laughs at the Bier Baron.
Thu 30th Oct - Also at the Bier Baron, check out Ha!lloween comedy.
Wed 5th Nov - Remember to get tickets now: Perfect Liars Club is coming on the 5th November and as ever, it's going to be fantastic.