In 2016, all eyes will be on Washington, D.C. — and not just because it’s an election year. We’re not yet sure if the Democrats or Republicans will take control of the White House, but buzzy new restaurants, neighborhoods, cultural attractions and hotels are making sure that D.C. offers enough memorable experiences to cross all party lines.
Donald Trump’s Trump Organization expects to complete its $200 million renovation of the city’s historic Old Post Office building later this year, transforming the structure into a luxurious Trump International Hotel with 263 rooms, just blocks from the White House. We can expect glamorous design and a buzzy restaurant, albeit not the one previously announced from José Andrés, the D.C.-based celebrity chef who pulled his name from the project after the presidential hopeful’s controversial remarks about Mexican immigrants. We’ll also see The Watergate Hotel reopen after a $120 million renovation this winter, boasting a new rooftop bar and staff uniforms by a member of the Mad Men costume team.
Museums on (and off) the mall
This fall, the Smithsonian welcomes the final museum ever to be built above ground on the National Mall — the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The massive bronze structure has five stories below ground and three stories above, and room for 33,000-plus objects. It will tell the story of the richness of the African American experience with artifacts like a Jim Crow-era railway car and Louis Armstrong’s trumpet. Also notable is the renovation of one of the mall’s most popular spots, the National Museum of American History, which debuted a first-floor renovation this past summer; second- and third-floor updates will be showcased in the summers of 2016 and 2017, respectively. Off the mall, the popular Renwick Gallery, which features a gorgeous array of American crafts just steps from the White House, reopened in November and will display its permanent collection again early this year.
Move over, Georgetown and Dupont Circle. There’s a new hot spot in town. D.C.’s “cool” neighborhoods have been expanding beyond the usual haunts for some time, but in 2016, mark your maps for a visit to the North End of Shaw. This once residential neighborhood has emerged as an increasingly popular destination for independent retailers, locally influenced restaurants, cafés and theater, plus some fun big-name brands like Warby Parker and Kit and Ace. Don’t miss a second location of the popular Asian hot spot Daikaya, the cold brew at Compass Coffee or pizza-focused Declaration. Browse chic menswear at Steven Alan and Read Wall, or grab creative office goods at Cherry Blossom Creative before taking in a show at Landmark Theater.
Washingtonians have baby fever — specifically, baby panda fever. Bei Bei, a giant male panda cub, was born at the National Zoo in August. Since then, excited panda watchers have been eagerly scouting the “panda cams” on the zoo’s website for a peek. Bei Bei made his public debut on January 16. This endangered mammal (there are only around 2,000 in the world) is part of an exclusive program between the National Zoo and the panda’s native China. Bei Bei will be with the zoo for four years (joining older sister Bao Bao) before returning to Asia.
Political power — live in action
You’ve always been able to submit for a White House tour by making a request to your member of Congress. But as of this past July, you can now share the memories of your self-guided tours through your cell phone or traditional camera with a lens no longer than three inches. So, take advantage of your last chances to spot the Obamas (and their adorable dog, Bo) at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Just leave the selfie stick at home — thankfully, they’re banned from the premises.