Learn How to Splurge or Save While Visiting Washington, DC

Capital City Suits Any Budget

Washington, DC: How to Splurge

If you’re looking to splurge for a special occasion or pamper yourself with a taste of the good life, there are many ways to do it in DC.

Where to Stay: You’ll want to stay with the best. While prices vary by property and season, expect to spend at least $300 or more per night. For historic elegance, try the Hay-Adams or the Willard Intercontinental Washington. Both are stunning grand hotels that attract a constant flow of dignitaries and celebrities, located mere footsteps from the White House.

If you prefer to be near Georgetown’s shops and restaurants, the newly remodeled Park Hyatt Washington or Four Seasons Hotel fit the bill. The Park Hyatt reopened on June 10 following a major $24 million reconcepting by Tony Chi; the Four Seasons recently became the first Washington, DC hotel to earn five diamonds. Ritz-Carlton’s two Washington, DC locations are also nearby, including a trendy boutique-style hotel in Georgetown. Or, for round-the-clock pampering and personal concierge service in the same hot location, check into the Fairmont Washington, DC’s Gold Level.

And on the Southwest Waterfront, the Mandarin Oriental Washington blends Asian-inspired opulence with some of the finest views, cuisine and service in Washington, DC.

What to Eat: Fine dining is a known quantity in DC. At the Mandarin Oriental, Executive Chef Eric Ziebold (formerly of The French Laundry) tantalizes diners with modern American cuisine at CityZen, recognized as one of the “Hottest Restaurants in the World” by Food & Wine. A fixed three-course menu is priced at $75. At Georgetown’s Michel Richard Citronelle, award-winning cuisine by Chef Michel Richard is an indulgent culinary escape. Fixed dinner menus range from $85 to $150.

Downtown Washington, DC’s restaurant boom has attracted the attention of trendy chefs and diners. At Le Paradou, Executive Chef and co-proprietor Yannick Cam tantalizes foodies with some of the city’s finest French fare. Six-course tasting menus are priced at $110 per person; a nine-course menu is $145.

Feeling adventurous? Executive Chef José Andrés, voted Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s Chef of the Year in 2006, and Chef Katsuya stretch the limits of diners’ imaginations at minibar, a six-seat restaurant located inside Café Atlantico. Diners feast on 30-35 mini-courses, ranging from foie gras wrapped in cotton candy to a mojito captured in a bite-sized bubble. The dining experience is priced at $95 per person.

Just outside of Washington, DC, in McLean, Virginia, Maestro tempts diners with the culinary creations of Chef Fabio Trabbochi, named this year’s Best Chef—Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation. The restaurant was also recently named Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year. A fixed-price dinner menu is available Tuesday through Saturday; prices range from $85 to $150.

What to Do: If you’re in the mood to spend, there’s a lot of shopping to be done. Just north of Washington, DC, the new Collection at Chevy Chase boasts an impressive assortment of exclusive shops including Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo and much more. In Georgetown, look for independent retailers along Wisconsin Avenue or visit The Shops at Georgetown Park to find the designer showcase at Intermix. On M Street, it’s designer shoe heaven at Hu’s Shoes.

If you’re not enjoying a decadent evening meal, try a night at the theatre. Broadway shows and lavish Broadway productions are consistently on the menu at the Kennedy Center. Catch a classic play at Washington, DC’s critically-acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre Company or sample something different at the edgy Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company or Studio Theatre.

How to Tour—Or Just Get Around: If you’re looking for a unique way to tour, the sky’s the limit. Romantics can charter a horse and carriage ride by Carriages of the Capital to see the historic monuments by moonlight. All Events/Majestic Limo Service will help arrange a private moonlight tour of the city’s most inspiring memorials. For techies, Segway Safaris and rentals from Segs in the City or City Segway Tours offer a fun way to get around DC. Safari and rental prices for the self-balancing, fully battery powered devices start at $45.

Check washington.org for transportation options.

Washington, DC: How to Save

If gas prices have you strapped for cash, don’t think your vacation plans have to suffer. Washington, DC is just the place for anyone traveling on a budget.

How to Get Here: Several bus lines operate quick, convenient and cheap transportation to Washington, DC from several East Coast cities, including New York, Boston and Philadelphia. And talk about affordable; round-trip fares are available for as little as $35 per person. For more information and exact fares, visit 2000coach.com, apexbus.com and todaysbus.com. If you’re surfing the Web for cheap airfares, don’t forget to check out all three airports that service the nation’s capital: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Where to Stay: If it’s the “home away from home” feeling you are looking for, try a cozy neighborhood B&B, like Adam’s Inn (rooms from $89) or Kalorama Guest House (rooms from $55) in Adams Morgan. Washington’s B&Bs are unique, reasonably priced and offer complimentary breakfast. If you’d rather get a bit of the wilderness on your stay, Cherry Hill Park is the closest RV park to Washington, DC, located ten miles from the city in College Park, Maryland. Priced at just $38 per night, the park also provides free transportation into the city many times a day.

And for an affordable, international experience, consider hanging your hat at a hostel. At the centrally-located American Youth Hostels/Hostelling International Washington, DC, you literally only need the shirt on your back. They provide sheets, pillows and bath linens. Stay connected with the hostel’s high-speed Internet stations and mingle with other out-of-towners in the game room, community kitchen or TV lounge, which is home to a 60-inch, big-screen television.

Where to Eat: If you’re looking for a menu filled with low-fat and low-priced vegetarian meals, pasta and sandwiches, Dupont Circle’s Café Luna is a must-try. Visit Sunday through Wednesday and indulge in a half-price pizza, pasta or bottle of wine. On U Street, budget travelers should check out Ben’s Chili Bowl, a family-owned restaurant and DC culinary landmark. Open since 1958, Ben’s earned national media attention in the ‘80s when long-time customer Bill Cosby held a press conference at Ben’s to announce the success of The Cosby Show. At Ben’s you can get a $3 chili dog, $4 burger, $4 chili half-smoke and even a few vegetarian options.

Washington, DC restaurants also come through with bargain bites during happy hour. If you’re touring in downtown, don’t miss happy hour at Ella’s Pizza. Drink prices start at $3 and complimentary wood-fired pizza is served at the bar from 5 pm until 7 pm. With two downtown locations, McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurant draws crowds with a $1.95 bar menu, including burgers, tacos, dip and oysters. Near the White House, Chef Geoff’s tasty monster burgers come with a mound of fries and ring in at just $5.

If you plan your visit during Washington, DC Restaurant Week, you can enjoy a three-course meal at one of the city’s top eateries for just $20.06 (lunch) or $30.06 (dinner). Restaurant Week is held bi-annually in August and January; the next edition is slated for Aug. 14-20.

What to Do: When looking for entertainment in Washington, DC, one thing’s for sure: You don’t have to spend a dime. All of the city’s famous monuments are free of charge, as are the 12 museums in the Smithsonian system and the National Gallery of Art. Or, get off the National Mall and take a free, self-guided tour on one of Cultural Tourism DC’s neighborhood heritage trails. At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, take a free tour and watch the money come hot off the presses. End your day with a free concert or performance on the Millennium Stage at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, offered nightly at 6 pm.

How to Tour—Or Just Get Around: Public transportation in DC fits everyone’s budget. A Metrorail one-day pass costs $6.50 for unlimited rides. The newest transportation option, the DC Circulator offers bus connections between Georgetown, Union Station, the Washington Convention Center, the Southwest Waterfront and the National Mall for just $1 per ride.

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