Far-flung travel is fabulous if you’ve got the time (and budget!) to make it happen. But if you’re looking for a quick and easy getaway, allow us to remind you of the beauty of the weekend road trip. In this recurring series, we ask seasoned travelers to share all the details of their best recent trip, from the car they drove to the clothes they packed—and, of course, the must-visit locations on their itinerary.
I’m from Washington D.C., and I go back often to see family over the holidays. Often, these trips are short and confined to relatives’ homes and I don’t get to take advantage of everything the city has to offer, including a food scene that has exploded in the 20 years since I left. I went back for a long weekend recently and baked in a little more free time to reacquaint myself.
What I Drove
The Audi e-tron Sportback. I had never driven an electric car before, much less driven one for a long-haul drive. But for my maiden e-car voyage, I tested Audi’s Sportback from New York to D.C. It’s a trip that I make frequently, and depending on traffic it can take anywhere from four to seven hours. The car is a coupe model, and I traveled with my husband and five-year-old.
I had been worried that it wouldn’t be spacious enough and might be too sleek for the kind of crumbly snack and toy shenanigans that ensue when embarking on a long trip with a little kid. A sort of optical illusion, the car is cavernous inside, and the driver’s seat is particularly comfortable, which was nice considering that the drive did, in fact, turn out to be closer to seven hours than four. Most of that timing had to do with traffic, but driving an electric car requires planning and patience: The infrastructure is not there yet; you can’t pull off at any old highway rest stop and expect to find a high-speed charge. (I learned that the hard way.) You have to map yourself to high-speed charging spots, which are often off the highway. I hope the infrastructure catches up soon because the models are clearly there.
Where I Stayed
The Jefferson Hotel. This is a real jewel box of a hotel located centrally in downtown D.C., just a short walk from the White House, Dupont Circle, and Logan Circle. Done in the beaux-arts style, the hotel, which was originally built as an apartment building in 1921, is exquisitely appointed without ever veering toward seeming ostentatious. Its discretion is certainly part of the allure for the inside-the-Beltway huddles between politicians and lobbyists that often go down in the hotel’s leather-banquet-lined and soundproofed meeting rooms. The rooms and suites above, in contrast, are serene and warm, mostly done up in creams.
A nod to its namesake, wood flooring is reclaimed from a Jefferson-era barn, and portraits of founding fathers dating back to the 1780s line the walls. There’s even a Madeira collection that includes bottles from 1720. The standout, though, is the Quill bar, with its dark wood paneling and glowing handblown-glass-top bar (the only one of its kind in the U.S.). Any good hotel bar has a kind of romance to it, the feeling that a chance romance or consequential meeting over a frosty martini could happen at any time, and the Quill certainly delivers that charm.
The restaurant scene in D.C. expanded during the Obama administration and keeps getting better. But the city has always been home to some of the best Ethiopian and Eritrean food in the U.S., thanks to the large immigrant communities that settled in the area after the 1974 revolution in Ethiopia. Dukem is a standby, and standouts include Zenebech and Chercher. I always make sure to have dinner at one of my old favorites or a newer spot.
To get a taste of a lot of the best of D.C. in one shot, Union Market was an easy choice for a long, drawn-out brunch. Vendors offer everything from dumplings to dosas to doughnuts (I got all of those things) and lots more. Food can be enjoyed from the rooftop, where you can also catch an exercise class in the early morning, or on the ground level while browsing used books.
This is a city rich in museums. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Air and Space Museum, and National Museum of African American History and Culture are dotted along or around the mall. When you’re ready to escape the crowd, try the Phillips Collection near Dupont Circle, which on a recent visit was showing a wide swath of Alma Woodsey Thomas’s colorful abstract paintings and also has some incredible impressionist works in its permanent collection. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden also always has blockbuster shows and compelling programming going on; the Yayoi Kusama exhibit has been bringing in the crowds for months.
Washington is a walkable city with many parks that, despite DC’s small size, will make you forget you’re in a city at all. I love Rock Creek Park for a run or small hike, though I prefer Tregaron Conservancy in Cleveland Park and Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown for less crowded nature escapes and beautiful strolls.