Tuesday, November 17, 2015

DC is a little emptier the weekend of
Thanksgiving, with many—though not all—people leaving the city to visit
family elsewhere.
For the lucky few who spend Turkey Day in the District, that
means an opportunity to get the city's incredibly popular sites, and best
eateries, to yourself.
Thanksgiving weekend in Washington, DC, is the perfect
time to visit the city's otherwise most crowded spots—museums, restaurants,
and art venues.
Beat the crowds and get the best values on Black Friday by
avoiding the malls and heading for the Mall.
1.
Spend the morning at the National Gallery of Art, one of the rare museums
on the Mall not a part the Smithsonian Institution (though it's just as
free).
Founded by a donation from industrialist Andrew W.
Mellon, the enormous
and beautiful museum—divided into neoclassical West and modern East
Buildings (the former designed by John Russell Pope, the latter by I.
M.
Pei),
traces the course of Western art from the Middles Ages to the present.
Several
tours are offered each day.
Don't neglect the rich permanent collection: the
only Leonardo da Vinci in the Western hemisphere, Titian's "Venus with a
Mirror," Rembrant's 1659 "Self-Portrait," John Singleton Copley's "Watson and
the Shark," Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Shaw memorial, and Alexander Calder's
magnificent mobiles.
2.
Grab lunch at the Museum of the American Indian.
The Mitsitam Native
Foods Cafe draws its name from the phrase "Let's eat!" in the language of the
Delaware and Piscataway peoples.
The cafe—a hidden gem for those looking for
a good meal on the Mall—serves food drawn from many Native American food
cultures, from southwestern fry bread to Oaxacan corn totopos, to hybrid
dishes like buffalo burgers.
The Museum, of course, is so much more than just
its food: check out exhibits on Incan road building, contemporary artist Kay
Walkingstick, and the 1862 war between the U.S.
and the Dakota.
3.
Warm up at the U.S.
Botanic Garden, which features a large decorated
tree, an array of poinsettias, a train display, and local landmarks—like the
Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument—made from
plants.
Open every day of the year, the garden is the oldest to continually
operate in the United States.
(James Monroe set aside the land in 1820.)
French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who also designed the Statue of
Liberty, built the beautiful 1876 bronze fountain out front.
4.
Sip an early evening cocktail at Barmini by José Andrés.
Spanish chef
Andrés, who studied under molecular gastronomy pioneer Ferran Adrià at the
Catalan restaurant El Bulli, is one of DC's premier restaurateurs.
Barmini is
one of his more recent projects, located beside his acclaimed multi-course
prix-fixe restaurant, Minibar.
Here ice cubes are cut with handsaws, spirits
are instilled with Wonka-esque equipment, and the menu numbers more than 100
drinks.
Try the seasonally spiced Palermo, made with nutmeg infused Fernet,
bourbon, Carpano, egg white, and saffron syrup.
5.
Catch the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center.
The Chicago
dance company (the subject of Robert Altman's last movie, The Company)
performs its last season of Robert Joffrey's American-themed choreography for
the "Nutcracker" this year; choreographer Christopher Wheeldon's version will
premiere next December.
The Kennedy Center, a grand midcentury monument to the
arts, is the perfect place to see it.
6.
Eat dinner at Rose's Luxury, the Eastern Market restaurant known for its
American-themed small plates menu—and the long line out front.
Rose's Luxury
doesn't take reservations, but the restaurant should be a little less crowded
this weekend.
7.
Order a night cap at Harold Black, a bar hidden behind a door without a
sign or number.
Run by team behind popular DC restaurant Acqua Al 2, Harold
Black used to be reservations-only, and reservations could only be made if you
texted a secret phone number.
Those days are behind Harold Black: it now
reserves eight seats for walk-ins and uses an online reservation system for
those who want to come prepared.
For all the rigmarole about getting in, the
drinks—like the simply named "Cocktail #4," which is made with chamomile-
and pear-infused vodka, apricot liqueur, lime, champagne—are superb.
Molly McArdle is a regular contributor to Travel + Leisure.
Follow her on
Twitter.
Washington, DC

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