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The Locals’ Guide to Washington, DC

When you take your summer trip to Washington, DC, no need to be a camera-carrying, fanny-pack-wearing tourist. That’s cool, but if you prefer a more relaxed, understated approach, we have a few tips. In addition to well-known monuments and museums, our nation’s capital is full of cozy bars and restaurants, locally owned shops, and hot nightlife. DC residents have their go-to spots, so follow their lead.

Just west of downtown DC, Georgetown is the city’s design district. Find something for your home along Cady’s Alley. Jonathan Adler is all about “happy chic,” while American Holiday focuses on gifts and home accents. More than 150 specialty fashion stores in Georgetown make it the place to go to update your wardrobe. National designers and retailers have storefronts here, as well as local boutiques that are DC exclusives. You’ll find familiar names, such as Tory Burch, Billy Reid, and Barneys. Or if you’re a bargain hunter, Second Time Around and Ella-Rue specialize in consignment. For an afternoon pick-me-up, stop into Baked & Wired and order a cupcake and espresso. And before you head off to freshen up for dinner, have a glass of wine at ENO Wine Bar and nibble some cheese and charcuterie.

In the heart of Washington, DC the 14th Street strip is full of bars, boutiques, galleries, and restaurants. Walk along from Rhode Island Avenue to U Street, and plenty of places will draw your eye and build your appetite. Start the day with a cup of Stumptown coffee at Dolcezza. For lunch, try chef Mike Isabella’s sandwich shop called G. The sandwiches are served in hoagies, Jersey style, but the flavors are straight from the Mediterranean. If you return to the same spot at dinnertime, you’ll find the place transformed into Kapnos, a private dining room serving Northern Greek specialties out of two wood-fired grills. For more than two decades, Black Cat has been the spot to see alternative artists on the rise. It has two concert stages, Backstage and Mainstage, where shows take place simultaneously. The onsite Food for Thought Café is known for vegetarian specialties, but it also serves half-smokes and hamburgers. The area has several options for a nightcap. Black Whiskey offers an impressive selection of whiskeys, scotches, and bourbons, and the knowledgeable bartenders craft them into creative concoctions. For a late-night snack, stop by B Too for a cone of frites to go.

For summertime activity in DC, baseball is a favorite for locals and visitors, whatever their age. Nationals Park, home of the MLB Washington Nationals, is a destination itself. With beautiful views (of the field and the city) and favorite DC eats, such as Ben’s Chili Bowl and Chesapeake Crab Cake Company, rooting for the home team is a quintessential DC outing. To get in on the sporting action yourself, head over to Lucky Strike in Chinatown for a boutique bowling experience including food, drinks, and billiards, too. Washington, DC, its neighborhoods, and its surrounding cities are defined by the water. If you want to do DC like a local, don’t leave without getting out on the water. Boating in DC offers twilight kayak tours where you can watch the sun set on the city — an ideal way to end an evening.

The next time you visit Washington, DC, see the city like a local. Click here to make your plans.