Capital Calling

Get acquainted with Washington, D.C.’s burgeoning arts and culture hub. 

Just a few blocks from the National Mall sits an area of the capital city that was promised development years ago. This fall, those plans will finally come to fruition, with the redevelopment of the District Wharf. 

“The development on the Southwest Waterfront is huge for Washington, D.C.,” says Alisa Cohen with Avenue Two Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. “This area has been underutilized for years, and it is fantastic to see it come to life, especially because it enjoys such a wonderful waterfront location.” 

The District Wharf development keeps the iconic fish market front and center, while also bringing in multiple music venues like The Anthem, plus new bars and restaurants helmed by well-known faces like Todd Thrasher, Chef Jamie Leeds, and Chef Jennifer Carroll. The new development officially opens in October, so here’s how to make the most of your stay. 

Stay

For a stay in the heart of Southwest D.C., book a room at the Mandarin Oriental. The luxury hotel is located across the street from the District Wharf and just two blocks from the National Mall. The decor is a mix of simple sophistication with pops of Asian influence. Guest rooms feature a neutral color palette with subtle blue accents, plus views of either the city or the Tidal Basin. 

Take advantage of eighth floor Club, including the sweeping views of D.C. The Club serves breakfast and has a cocktail reception each evening, plus snacks and drinks are available all day. For the ultimate leisurely retreat, head to the lower level for a 50-foot indoor swimming pool, fitness center, as well as private yoga and fitness classes. 

For a relaxing getaway, the Mandarin Oriental’s spa is a destination on its own. Spread over 10,500 feet, the spa offers a variety of services from massages to facials. Spend extra time in the facilities to relax in the heat and water experience, including an amethyst steam room, sauna, a vitality pool, ice fountain, and cold plunge pool. 

Eat

There’s no need to leave the Mandarin Oriental for delicious fare. On-site food offerings include all-day service at Muze and cocktails and afternoon tea at Empress Lounge. Empress Lounge overlooks the hotel’s gardens and embodies the quintessential lobby bar. The laid-back bar offers signature cocktails, teas, and coffee plus light bites as an easy break during the day. 

Indulge with a meal at Muze, a contemporary dining space overlooking the Washington Channel. The menu features modern American staples with Asian influence. Watch boats navigate the channel as you snack on she crab soup with tobiko caviar, or one of the signature sushi rolls or sashimi offerings, like the Tsukiji Market Sashimi served with daikon, wasabi, and lemon. The east-meets-west menu includes traditional items like beef filet mignon and roasted Maryland rockfish, but has some twists with dishes like Peruvian Tallarin Saltado: stir-fried beef with cracked pepper, linguine, soy sauce, and ahi amarillo. End with something sweet that’s also an homage to the property—Mandarin orange in five textures.

Play

All of the capital city is at your fingertips with a stay in Southwest D.C. Guests can easily stroll to the National Mall and take in the Smithsonian museums, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial. In just a 20 minute walk you’ll be in front of the White House. 

“Washington, D.C. has always been a top travel destination with amazing museums (most of which have no admission fee) and monuments,” says Cohen. While Washington, D.C. is home to many museums spanning all different areas of interest, the art galleries should not be missed. 

The National Gallery of Art features European and American masterpieces from paintings to decorative arts, and includes the attached Sculpture Garden. Look for notable works by Leonardo da Vinci (the only painting by him in the Americas), Botticelli, Rembrandt, Edgar Degas, and Claude Monet. 

The Smithsonian is home to a few galleries all within easy walking distance of the Mandarin Oriental. The Freer Gallery of Art and the Sackler Gallery offer collections of Asian art. The Freer Gallery was the first museum on the National Mall, and both galleries are sister Museums. The Freer Gallery hosts the permanent collection, while the Sackler includes both permanent and temporary exhibits. Both galleries have been renovated this summer and will celebrate with a grand reopening Oct. 14 and 15. The Sackler Gallery connects to the National Museum of African Art on its shared lower level. This museum is the only national museum in the country dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation, and study of the arts of Africa. Visitors may not know what the Hirshhorn Museum is, but the cylindrical building is iconic. This collection of modern and contemporary art also includes a sunken sculpture garden. A commissioned work by Mark Bradford will be on display in October and November. 

For the performing arts, look no further than Arena Stage, a Southwest D.C. staple since 1950.  The theater was renovated in 2010, and the new glass structure encompasses the original stage. The company is known for its locally grown theater, with hits moving on to Broadway, such as the Tony Award-winning “Dear Evan Hansen.” This season expect 25 plays and musicals around the theme of politics and power.


On the Menu

Here are the dining options to look
forward to once the District Wharf opens: 

Sushi Ogawa

Chef Minoru Ogawa already operates Sushi Capitol and Sushi Ogawa and will be opening an 8-seat sushi restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental. 

Tiki TNT

This new bar is part of a three story complex that also includes Potomac Distilling Company and Thrashers Rum, all owned by Todd Thrasher.

Florentijn

This Belgian bistro is lead by Chef Jan Van Haute, the former chef at the Belgian Embassy.

Hank’s Oyster Bar

Renowned chef and owner Jamie Leeds opens her biggest Hank’s Oyster Bar to date on the Wharf in October featuring urban beach food. 

Requin

“Top Chef” alum Jennifer Carroll partnered with Mike Isabella to launch the second location of Requin on the Wharf, featuring French and Mediterranean inspired cuisine. 

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