I love a local getaway, or as some call it, a staycation. I’m the queen of renting a hotel room, and acting like I’m on a legit vacation, regardless of whether I caught a plane or took a 20 minute car ride to get there. Mentally escaping my day-to-day routine does not necessarily require taking leave from work or taking a flight. So for Valentine’s day, my boyfriend and I decided to do an over-nighter in DC this past weekend.
I worked in DC for over 20 years, but that feels like a million years ago. I’m no longer working in the nation’s capital, and now that I’m co-habitating, I live over an hour away from the city. So going back to DC felt like a chance to revisit my old stomping grounds and it was also an opportunity to see what’s new since I was last there.
I don’t like to rip and run on vacation…or staycation. My requirements for a trip or a staycation to be successful are pretty easily attainable. I like to find a nice bar and a place to listen to music, I like a few nice photo opps, and maybe a cute store to buy a trinket. If I can do those things, that’s a staycation well-done, in my world at least.
Staying one night in DC is hardly enough time to explore all of the new areas, such as the Wharf or Center City. It really didn’t give us time to visit monuments or check out museums. So what the heck did we do???
So here’s what I did. I reserved a cute hotel for a rate that I thought was reasonable, packed my bags, and showed up there. That’s about all the up-front planning that I did. My thought was…there are bars and restaurants and cool spots throughout the whole city. Once I get to the hotel, we can walk a few blocks and see what pulls us in. Did that idea work? Sorta. Here’s how the overnighter played out.
Arrived at hotel: Traffic from Baltimore County into DC made me realize that I don’t miss working in the city. I chose the Kimpton Hotel Rouge in Dupont. Kimpton hotels are always nice, and this one had saucy red lacquer and leather decor that felt very Valentine-y. So I was super excited. The rate was ok ($128), but there were so many additional fees that it irked me. $19 taxes, $25 amenity fee, and $4 amenity fee tax…even the fees have their own taxes…what??? I was also concerned about the parking. The hotel offered valet for $47—UGH! —plus $9 parking tax (are you kidding me!?!). There were no garages in the near vicinity that proved to be a better deal. And the only thing worse than DC street parking is DC street parking overnight. The confusing signage just made my nerves bad. So we opted for the valet. This worked well convenience-wise, but the price was steep and the tax on the steep price was just irritating. This is definitely one part of being in the city that I do not miss at all.
Found a great restaurant: After eenie-meenie-miney-moe to figure out which direction to head…we opted to walk towards Dupont Circle in search of a place for lunch. After reading a few menus, we decided on a place called Magnolia Kitchen & Bar. Affordable prices, a nice drink menu, and chic decor appealed to all of our senses. Add an attentive staff, a perfect playlist and great food, and we loved this place. I even pulled the manager aside and told him as much.
Stumbled into a beer garden: OK, this was a complete accident. While walking back to the hotel, I had to use the bathroom super, super bad. I saw a bouncer and an open door and decided this was a good place to find a restroom. We hiked a million stairs to the roof and found the PACKED Sauf Haus Bier Hall, where we were pretty certain we were the oldest people in the place. After standing in line at the bathroom, we actually decided to stay for a drink. Despite the fact that I HATE packed places and that it felt like I was at a frat house day party, we actually had a blast. One drink transitioned into a dance…and then another drink and more dancing. The dj was clearly more our age because I swear every song took me back to either high school or college.
Had free happy hour at the hotel: We pulled ourselves out of the beer hall and headed back to the hotel for their free happy hour. The selection wasn’t extensive, but we enjoyed a few glasses of free wine, and that was perfect for us. They also had a hot cider with bourbon. What more can you ask for for free??
Went to U Street for live music and dinner: This is where the decision to wing it fell apart. My coworker recommended Jojo DC, and raved about the food and live music, so this was one place I knew I would try on our trip. And this was the one thing that didn’t quite pan out. It didn’t occur to me to make a reservation, and since we went relatively early in the evening, I figured we’d have no issues with getting a table. WRONG…so wrong. It was standing room only at the bar, and none of the smart people who made reservations flaked. So we never got a table and eventually left.
Had brunch before we left: We did quite a bit of drinking on Saturday, so naturally the first thing on our minds on Sunday was food. We decided to go to Commissary DC, which was only a few blocks away. But I learned from my lesson the previous night, and this time I called to make a brunch reservation. Good thing, because it was packed when we got there, and there was a long wait without a reservation. The food was delicious! The staff worked as a perfect team, and the ambiance was perfect and eclectic.
Even with the things that didn’t pan out, we had a great time. Lots of laughs and dancing and snuggles…it made for a great V-day date and we’d probably do it the exact same way the next time.