Washington DC Travel Tips for Those Interested in Politics

The never ending talk of the upcoming presidential election may have renewed your families’ interest in how our government and politicians work.  Here’s your chance to observe our nation’s leaders in their natural habitat.

When to Begin

Early. Arrive Friday morning so you can watch the city at work. Political Washington completely shuts down by Sunday (unless you count listening to the talk-show windbags on TV).

Where to Begin

The Capitol (202/225-6827; www.aoc.gov), naturally. Sign up for free tickets at the kiosk on the southwest corner of the grounds. After the tour, you can drop by the office of your senator or representative—and maybe even score a handshake. If you visit when Congress is in session (most weekdays, except around holidays), you can sit in the House or Senate visitors’ gallery and take in the action on the floor, which usually consists of a few members gossiping and ignoring the speech being made by a colleague.

The Ultimate Insider Lunch

The Senate Refectory isn’t as glamorous as it sounds—nary a senator in sight. The real clubhouse for political D.C. is A.V. Ristorante Italiano (607 New York Ave. NW; 202/737-0550; lunch for four $60), a.k.a. the A.V.—an old-school joint with red-checked tablecloths and surprisingly decent food. Yes, that’s Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the regulars, digging into his anchovy pizza.

Our Country’s Paperwork

Wander down the Mall a few blocks to the National Archives (700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 866/272-6272; www.archives.gov), where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are housed. Check up on your favorite amendment—it’s still there, despite what you’ve been reading in the papers.

A Dinner Splurge

If you’re dressed more like lobbyists than tourists—no shorts! no fanny packs!—try to snag a table at Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW; 202/547-8100; dinner for four $170). Its expense-account central for power brokers and dignitaries; you’re bound to spot a senator or two.

D.C. Downtime

Head over to Capitol Hill, the residential neighborhood flanking the Capitol. Eastern Market, in a gorgeous 1873 red-brick building, is home to butchers, greengrocers, and crafts vendors. Your goal: brunch at Market Lunch (225 Seventh St. SE; 202/547-8444; brunch for four $35), which has incredible blueberry pancakes and even better crab cakes. Walk them off in the Capitol Hill Historic District. Stanton and Marion parks are lush oases—just right for a senator to enjoy a quiet assignation with a mistress. As always, in Washington, keep your eyes open and your camera handy.

 

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