Washington D.C.'s Party Weekend: Where to Stay, Drink and Play

3:12 PM PST 04/29/2014 by Melinda Sheckells
Courtesy of Fiola Mare
Fiola Mare

With the White House Correspondents' Dinner on May 3, these are the spots worth checking out in the nation's capital.

The White House Correspondents' Dinner will celebrate 100 years of congenial ribbing between politicians and the news media on May 3 at the Washington Hilton. The festivities, hosted by by Joel McHale, will be attended by President Obama and a star-studded A-to-Z guest list, as well as media companies such as Time, USA Today, Fortune and NPR. WHCD weekend has become Washington D.C.'s most important of the year, earning the name the "bacchanal on the beltway," as Friday night dinners and Saturday night cocktail parties spill over into Sunday brunches. Check out the best hotels, restaurants and bars where the action will happen before and after the event.

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WHERE TO STAY

Capella Washington D.C.
1050 31st St. NW ,Washington, D.C., 20007; 202-617-2400

The only U.S. property from Capella Hotels, this exclusive Georgetown address with only 49 rooms and suites is primed for high-profile guests with its reputation for personalizing experiences. Want to take a bike ride to George Washington's home in Mount Vernon? Well, that can be arranged by a Capella Personal Assistant. Need security for the adventure? Check. Capella offers spaces that are only reserved for guests, such as the rooftop pool and bar and the Living Room, which is a check-in/relaxation lounge separated from public areas by key card. There is also direct access from the parking garage to the Presidential Suite floor, which can be completely closed off for guests and their entourage. For WHCD weekend, Capella's resident stylist, April Yvonne, will provide her expertise on how to tie a perfect bow tie and necktie, or find the best ball gown to wear to the event. And traveling luxury boutique Maison de Mode, curated by Hassan Pierre and Amanda Hearst, will pop-up in the hotel's presidential suite from May 1-4. MDM specializes in ethical fashion finds from top designers such as Laura Siegel, Bantu, Cecelia Prado, Hare & Hart and Edie Parker.

 

Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C.
1330 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, D.C., 20024; 202-554-8588

While not located in either of the town's most popular neighborhoods Georgetown or Northwest, Mandarin Oriental's Washington, D.C., property is situated in the southwest with an amazing view of the Tidal Basin and Jefferson Memorial. Its tucked-away location attracts famous faces such as Glenn Close, Harrison Ford and Eddie Vedder. It is also the first MO in the United States with a Tai Pan club, a hospitality suite offering private check in, a concierge, library, meeting room and beverage and food selection. Almost as legendary as the guests it attracts, its Presidential Suite is one of the best in a city known for luxury accommodations. With three bedrooms, spanning more than 3,000 square feet, an exhibit of Chinese compasses and a full dining room, this glorious apartment is perfect for working, entertaining or relaxing.

W Hotel
515 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004; 202-661-2400

The W was the scene of last year's WHCD New Yorker party and the likes of Sharon Stone, Michelle Dockery, Gerard Butler and Leonardo DiCaprio have been seen frolicking around the W Hotel's baroque black, white and red lobby and its spectacular P.O.V. roof terrace (one of the best views of the White House with cocktail service). Great for light bites and cocktails at any time of the day, P.O.V. is one of the most Instagrammable spots in the city. Nearby, Tea Leoni has been filming Madam Secretary along with co-stars Morgan Freeman, Lori McCreary and Tracy Mercer.

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WHERE TO DRINK

The Gibson
2009 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009; 202-232-2156

Kevin Spacey, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman have all been spotted at The Gibson, part of the network of bars owned by Thievery Corporation's Eric Hilton. This speakeasy has no sign and not much of a website, but once inside you will forget about all the hoops you had to jump through to get there, as you watch one of the expert bartenders hand-carve the ice cubes for your drink. The menu changes seasonally, but a few favorites always remain. Try the tongue-in-cheek creation, Bananas In Places They Shouldn't Be, a gin-based cocktail with Banane du Bresil, Cocchi Rosa and orange bitters -- a springtime delight.

Dram & Grain
2007 18th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20009; 202-607-1572

Located in a basement under Jack Rose Dining Saloon (a favorite of Sean Penn) and accepting only 60 reservations per week, Dram & Grain is the toast of Washington, D.C.'s craft cocktail scene. Open only on Friday and Saturday nights and with three two-hour seatings, the tucked-away spot is the brainchild of Bar Rescue's Trevor Frye and his partner Nick Lowe. The duo use tools such as hot pokers, blowtorches and vaporizers to reinvent the forgotten classics of the cocktail world, as well as leave their stamp on modern mixology. The menu changes regularly, so each visit is a surprise.

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WHERE TO EAT

Fiola Mare
3050 K St. NW, Suite 101, Washington, D.C., 20007; 202-628-0065

On the Georgetown waterfront, Fiola Mare is the hottest new restaurant in town, with Michelle Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Steven Tyler and Susan Rice all paying visits during opening month. It's the latest from Maria and Fabio Trabocchi, who also own two other celebrity-friendly D.C. eateries: Fiola and Casa Luca. The view, both inside and out (a 60-seat veranda looks out on the Potomac and Kennedy Center), and the menu of Mediterranean seafood delicacies are making this a sought-after reservation for lunch, brunch or dinner. At the white marble bar, Washington's political elite chatter over classic cocktails like the Americano (Campari, Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth and club soda) and The Boulevardier (Wild Turkey, vermouth and Campari). What to eat? The Oysters and Caviar pairs 24 oysters and Spoonbill caviar in a cup of Prosecco Zabaglione -- this dish invites deep scoops, each of which is a tasty surprise. Another specialty is Maine Lobster Ravioli.

Barmini
855 E St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20004; 202-393-4451

Jose Andres has built a culinary empire in Washington, D.C., which has now expanded to Miami and Los Angeles, thanks to his popular Bazaar restaurant inside SLS Hotels and two eateries inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. But D.C. has been his home since the late '90s, where he has multiple locations covering the cuisine of many countries (Spain at Jaleo; Turkey, Lebanon and Greece at Zaytinya; and Mexico at Oyamel) all within a few blocks, including Minibar, the much-lauded restaurant with the 25-course, prix-fixe menu, and its counterpart, the culinary cocktail lab Barmini. Come before dinner or make a night of it with hundreds of classic cocktails, such as the Ramos Gin Fizz, which takes more than 10 minutes to make, and small bites of avocado toast, foie gras waffles and Buffalo chicken skin. Celebrities who love Jose include Rosario Dawson.

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WHERE TO VISIT

Pop into the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and view the Red Bull Stratos: Mission to the Edge of Space (through May 26, 2014), soon to become part of the museum's permanent collection. The ephemera includes the pressurized balloon gondola that Felix Baumgartner took to an altitude of 127,852 feet -- the edge of space -- over Roswell, New Mexico, on October 14, 2012 -- and the pressure suit that he wore on a flight to 97,145 feet on July 25, 2012. See the works of Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol at the American Art Museum's Pop Art Prints (through August 31, 2014), and visit American Cool at the National Portrait Gallery (through September 7, 2014) with images of Johnny Depp, Miles Davies, Faye Dunaway, Patti Smith and Jay Z, among many others, by fine-art photographers ranging from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Annie Leibovitz and Richard Avedon.

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