Sunday, May 19, 2024

Unveiling Washington, DC’s, Hidden Gems: Discovering the City’s Best-Kept Secrets

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Welcome to the vibrant city of Washington, DC, where history, culture, and excitement converge in every neighborhood. You may already be familiar with the iconic landmarks and bustling districts that define this captivating city. However, beyond the well-known attractions, lies a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. 

In this article, we will take you on a journey to uncover the lesser-known pockets of charm and character that make “The District” a truly remarkable place to call home. We reached out to locals to share their favorite hidden gems in Washington, DC, from enchanting parks to unique dining experiences and thriving local communities. So, whether you are considering renting an apartment in DC, or are looking on Redfin and currently in the market to buy a house in the city, prepare to be captivated by the secrets this remarkable city has to offer.

The White House

1. Big Bear Cafe

“Our favorite hidden DC gem is Big Bear Cafe in Bloomingdale, explains Meredith Sheperd, founder of Love & Carrots, an urban farming and edible landscaping company. “The best thing on their menu is the wood fired pizzas, which taste even better eaten outside on their gorgeous garden patio that we’ve planted and maintained for over a decade. The vine-enclosed patio is surrounded by edible landscaping and gives the entire space a cozy secret garden feeling, making it especially great for hosting events. Big Bear has something for everyone to enjoy at almost any time of day, whether it’s a natural wine at an open mic night, or an early morning local cheddar biscuit and espresso with the neighborhood birdlife.”

2. Chaia Tacos

Chaia Tacos is a farm-to-taco restaurant with seasonal local produce with one of the only gluten-free meal menus in the city,” explains Take Care Shop, offering natural skincare, beauty, wellness and spa services. “Their menu rotates based on what’s fresh and my current favorite is the collard and shishito pepper quesadilla. I love that it’s on the canal and right by the waterfront, making it so easy to grab your bites and go for a stroll.”

3. Al Tiramisu and Bistrot Lepic

“For Italian food, our go-to place is Al Tiramisu located just off Dupont Circle and close to our shop in Georgetown,” shares Everard & Jennifer Nygard Owners of Everard’s Clothing, and upscale boutique in DC. “This hidden gem in DC is intimate, authentic, and perfect for date night or just a weeknight outing – think homemade pastas and fresh seafood. Favorite dish must include lobster of course, either the lobster linguine or lobster risotto.”

“For French food, we stay on our block, mere steps from our shop and head to Bistrot Lepic,” explains the Nygards. “Classic bistro food with some surprises including a fantastic curry chicken and a wild boar steak special. Also featuring live jazz music on certain weeknights in their upstairs lounge.”

Al Tiramisu, a hidden gem in DC, serves up homemade pasta

4. Boulangerie Christophe

Boulangerie Christophe is the absolute best French bakery,” states Natasha Sewell, owner of NPS Photography. The pastries and baked goods are delicious and the courtyard in the back is magical! You feel like you’ve been transported out of the city. It’s also dog friendly which is a major plus.”

5. Shops in Georgetown

Sewell also suggests a couple local shops to check out. “Storie Collective is the perfect shop to find a hostess gift or something unique for your home or kitchen. Sara Swabb, the owner, has such a keen eye and I never leave without buying something. In addition, Take Care DC is the best place for your skin care needs and especially a facial. Becky the owner is so knowledgeable about every product they carry. And Erin is my go to for the most incredible facial in town.”

Street corner at Georgetown, DC, USA.

6. Little Acre Flowers

“Another worthwhile stop is just around the corner from Cafe Cino at what will be the “Little Others” pop up collaboration between Little Acre Flowers and Others Coffee,” says Co-founder and Co-owner of Others Coffee, Brian Raupp. “Beginning the weekend of June 10th, Little Acre and Others will be transforming a beautiful space located at 1722 Florida Ave, NW, into a grab-and-go cafe/flower shop every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer.” 

7. As You Are bar 

Personal Trainer Bianca Russo of Bianca Russo Fitness suggests As You Are bar. “This bar is an LGBTQIA+-owned establishment and is a space with resources centered around community care. The bartenders are sober-informed, so even the non-drinking patrons feel welcome to socialize over the chicken tenders and fries without judgment.” 

8. Cafe Cino

“A must-visit hidden gem if you’re in the Adams Morgan area is Cafe Cino,” states Raupp. “Named after their eldest son, Cino, the cafe is a pop-up inside of a beautiful plant shop called PLNTR. Ron and Carolina, owners of Cafe Cino, have a great selection of coffees from around the world (including our coffee) and take tremendous pride in the preparation and presentation of everything they brew.”

Coffee grounds, beans, and latte

9. Filene Center

“Washington DC’s best kept hidden gem is the Filene Center at Wolf Trap Center for Performing Arts,” states Sara Polon, CEO & Co-Founder Soupergirl, offering Vegan, plant-based, kosher, and gluten-free soups. “This beautiful outdoor venue located just outside the city is actually a National Park! Some of the world’s best artists play every summer at this intimate, peaceful, outdoor oasis. Sting, Ziggy Marley, Elvis Costello, and Trombone Shorty are just a few of the acts that routinely perform on this legendary stage. Bonus! Visitors are allowed (and even encouraged!) to bring in their own food and wine. Rose under the stars.”

10. Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop

Bitty & Beau’s Coffee Shop is a conveniently-located coffee shop that will not only fill your stomach with impeccably crafted coffee, but inspire you with their mission to employ people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” explains Kristina Han Founder of Own Your Wonder. “It’s not about charity. It’s about delicious food, drinks and service, all the while doing good for humanity. I love their tagline: ‘a human rights movement disguised as a coffee shop.’”

11. The Blind Whino 

“The Blind Whino is a cultural house and historical landmark, shares Morgan Murray, blogger at Less or Morgan. “The building once stood as a church when it was built in 1886, but now stands as a center for art in the local community. Discover new artists, attend events, concerts, or enjoy the eclectic and colorful exterior of the building.”

The Blind Whino

12. Baked & Wired 

Murray also recommends Baked and Wired, a local favorite bakery and coffee shop in Georgetown. “The cupcakes are my go-to sweet treat to enjoy. While you are there, try the Oreo cupcake.”

13. Billy Goat trail

“A must-visit place near Washington, DC, and one of my favorite hidden gems is the Billy Goat trail in Great Falls, explains Dalia Hidayat of Craving for Chocolate, a boutique chocolate atelier. “Whenever I need to unplug and get a few hours of peace, I walk the trail and take in the scenic waterfalls. On the way back there is a restaurant called Old Anglers Inn that I stop by and grab lunch. The restaurant is off the beaten path but on the road back from the park and has a lush and beautiful outdoor garden patio where I can grab an ahi tuna salad with a side of french fries. This is my go to escape for peace and tranquility.”

District of Clothing, a lifestyle brand encouraging progression, inspiring action, and supporting self-love also suggests checking out Billy Goat Trail. “There are so many great things to do in the DMV area during the summer time, but our top choices would be hiking the strenuous Billy Goat Trail (section A)–it’s a nearly 5 mile hiking trail that follows a path between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River. Second suggestion would be to have a salad, fries and rose at Summer House Santa Monica in North Bethesda.”

Billy Goat Trail - Great Falls National Park

14. M.O.B Vintage

M.O.B Vintage, located outside of DC on Kensington Antique Row, is a charming stretch of vintage and antique shops,” explains Hadiya Williams, founder of Black Pepper Paperie CO., a DC-based art and design studio. “As a lover of all things old, from homes to objects and clothes, visiting this area is always a delight. Owner Mike O’Bryant has expanded from one shop to four, with a dedicated area for Mid-Century Modern furniture and decor, which is a personal favorite of mine. My partner, who went to school with Mike in historic Shepherd Park, introduced me to this gem, and now it’s become our annual Christmas tradition.”

15. Blagden Alley in NW

“Blagden Alley in NW is my favorite hidden gem in DC,” shares Opare Densua, Founder and CEO of Elevated Tea Co. “This historic community was once home to 60+ African American families seeking refuge after the Emancipation Proclamation. The alley was also home to the second elected Black U.S. Senator Blanche K. Bruce. Now a vibrant commercial district, it boasts unique alley dwellings, chic restaurants, a coffee shop, and dynamic art murals. Causa/Amazonia, a two-part Peruvian restaurant with a rooftop and exceptional cocktails (try the Ocapa), is my personal favorite.”

Blagden Alley is a DC hidden Gem

16. Hana Market

Han also recommends Hana Market. “This unexpected and old-school Japanese supermarket looks like any old corner store from the outside. Once you’re inside, you’re treated to a wide array of all things Japanese and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of Tokyo. Just to walk down each crowded aisle browsing a million noodles and spices is a fun way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the outside.” 

17. Purple Patch

“When I want to spend a night out, Purple Patch is my special spot that gives me so much joy and love,” shares Rose Nguyen, owner of Rose Ave Bakery, an Asian-American bakery offering pastries that are fun, inventive and damn delicious. “Chef Patrice exudes hospitality in everything she does, especially the food and service. The food is spectacular and represents Filipino culture so well.”

18. National Cathedral and grounds

“A favorite hidden gem of mine is the Washington National Cathedral and grounds,” says Joel Finkelstein, owner and roaster for Qualia Coffee located in the Petworth and Eckington neighborhoods of DC. “The building itself offers both a wealth of architectural details, not the least of which is a myriad of gargoyles carved into the stone work over the 100 years it took to complete, as well as an observation deck located at one of the highest points in DC. In the Bishops’ Garden, the grounds also feature one of the best picnicking and relaxation spots to enjoy a sunny day. 

Low angle view of a cathedral, Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC, USA

19. Sospeso

Sospeso is our go-to neighborhood restaurant for Mediterranean food on H Street NE,” says Seda & Suzy of Shopkeepers, a shop and cafe in DC. “For dinner, we always get the Mezze Platter with a bottle of wine. For brunch, their Turkish breakfast is great because of the balance of flavors and textures. The decor is cozy and the staff is friendly. Perfect spot to catch up with friends, especially on Mondays when a lot of restaurants are closed.”

20. The Peacock Room

The Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery is a stunning sea of blue and green designed by James McNeill Whistler to showcase a Chinese blue-and-white porcelain collection,” explains Amy Rutherford, President of kitchen essential shop Red Barn Mercantile and stationary store, Penny Post. “Marvel at its beauty and the feats of engineering it took to bring the room from London to Detroit to Washington, DC. Definitely worth the trip.”

Rutherford goes on to share, “Old Town Alexandria is an absolute gem. A trip to DC would not be complete without a stop in our little hamlet.  History, shopping, dining, and nature combine for a lovely day trip across the river.”

Washington, DC, is a city that never ceases to amaze, offering a countless number of experiences from serene greenspaces to unique neighborhoods with local charm. Embracing these hidden gems in DC is the key to immersing yourself in the city’s delights and finding out why DC is a good place to live.  Prepare to be captivated and forever connected to this remarkable city.

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