Washington DC

What We're Looking Forward to in DC in 2021

Things are looking up already.

National Cherry Blossom Festival
National Cherry Blossom Festival
National Cherry Blossom Festival

2020 was the year of canceled events and rescheduled plans. And, while many things still seem to be on hold for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does appear there are some glimmers of hope for fun this year. 

In Washington DC, annual events like the Cherry Blossom Festival and Funk Parade, have been reimagined. Plus there are some very exciting developments-a tasty food hall, an improved park for springtime picnics, a new museum, and a city library with a dance studio and roof deck. Here are seven things Thrillist is most looking forward to in 2021.

Photo Courtesy of Vina Sananikone/Yoko and Kota
Photo Courtesy of Vina Sananikone/Yoko and Kota
Photo Courtesy of Vina Sananikone/Yoko and Kota

Actually being able to enjoy The Roost food hall

Capitol Hill is home to the newest food hall in Washington DC. The Roost is a 12,500-square-foot space officially opened last fall, and is slowly but surely coming to life with delicious food options. The latest stall to open comes from Thrillist Local Hero Erik Bruner-Yang. His restaurant Yoko and Kota opened in mid-December and features pan-Asian inspired dumplings and noodle dishes, along with Chinese BBQ, which pairs perfectly with a craft beer from Shelter. There’s also plenty of other delicious eats under this one roof, from sushi to pizza, or tacos and ice cream sundaes-your stomach will thank you for visiting this spot, located just across the street from the Potomac Avenue Metro.
 

Chowing down during Winter Restaurant Week

This is going to be a tough season for DC’s restaurants, which usually enjoy a spike in January foot traffic thanks in part to DC’s Winter Restaurant Week. While area restaurants remain closed to indoor dining, several have signed up for meal deals for outdoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery. Check out price-fixed deals for brunch, lunch, and dinner that range from $22-55 per person. The two-week promotion runs from January 25 through February 7. Plus, there’s Alexandria Restaurant Week To-Go, which runs from January 22 to February 7. More than 60 restaurants in Alexandria will offer a $49 takeout, delivery, or curbside meal for two or a $25 dinner for one.
 

Reimagining the Cherry Blossom Festival and 10-Mile Run

Cherry blossoms are an annual spring tradition attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to DC and, sadly last year, the festival was put on hold due to COVID-19 shutdowns. This year, event organizers are envisioning a hybrid setup that includes safe social distancing, as well as virtual events, including the Pink Tie Party, which usually takes place on The National Mall. Those who plan to venture out to the Tidal Basin and National Mall should also plan for distanced and masked in-person gatherings. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 11, includes a distanced kite-flying celebration and “Petal Procession” parades, which will take place in every ward of the city. Meanwhile, the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run is still a-go, albeit delayed well past peak bloom. This year’s race is scheduled for September 12. Runners should mark June 1 on their calendar for the competitive online lottery.

Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals
Washington Nationals

Celebrating Opening Day at Nationals Park

Opening Day is a rite of spring that was significantly delayed last year, but so far this year, it appears to be all systems go for a new Nationals season on April 1. 2021 ticket plans (as low as $18 per game) are on sale now and include access to the Opening Day presale. Granted, it’s still a bit of a wait-and-see approach  for fans hoping for in-person baseball this season. Last year, the Nats played to an empty ballpark, seen only by a select few with a rooftop apartment or office in an eyeshot view of the park. Even if the ballpark remains closed to fans, there are plenty of bars and restaurants on or near Half Street to celebrate a win against the New York Mets. A few standbys like Walters Sports Bar, Mission, and The Bullpen remain open with streeteries, and they join newcomers like craft beer favorites Atlas Brew Works and Gatsby, a swank American eatery with plans to open by April.

Photo Courtesy of Planet Word
Photo Courtesy of Planet Word
Photo Courtesy of Planet Word

Visiting the new Planet Word and Franklin Square

No other city in America rivals the access, ease, and options of museums found in The District. 2021 will only add to the grand scale of museums that Washington has to offer, including Planet Word, an immersive language experience located at the historic Franklin School. While the museum opened briefly last year, it was put on hiatus this fall due to COVID-19. But there is hope that the museum will reopen this year with voice-activated exhibits, the first in the world, plus interactive galleries bringing words and language to life in all sorts of fun ways.

Those who want to admire the building from the outside can cross the street to enjoy a prime picnic and food truck spot in Franklin Square. The park is closing out an $18-million renovation and will open this spring with a cafe, promenade, as well as plenty of grassy patches to peacefully escape the hustle and bustle of downtown DC.

Honoring MLK at a new DC library

This year the DC Public Library celebrates its 125th birthday, and as part of the celebration it’s breaking in its brand new central library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which underwent a $211 million renovation last year. The space has been designed for all ages, including kids, who can slide down from a children’s reading room instead of taking the stairs. There’s also a recording, dance and recital studio, a rooftop garden with sweeping views of Gallery Place-Chinatown, and an opulent lobby featuring an iconic mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. created by artist Don Miller in 1986. The library maintains limited curbside services to pick up and return materials, as well as check out books from the grab-and-go selection.

Photo Courtesy of Funk Parade
Photo Courtesy of Funk Parade
Photo Courtesy of Funk Parade

Taking in the Funk Parade online

Funk Parade will forego its traditional parade and day and night festival in favor of a series of virtual and smaller, socially distanced events. The programming will continue to center around celebrating DC art, culture, history, and the legacy of U Street’s Black Broadway. Plus, this year there will be a Funk Parade-themed beer produced by local Virginia brewery Aslin Beer Co. More details about the parade’s 2021 events and schedule will be available soon online.Sign up here for our daily DC email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. and writes for EaterEdibleWashington City Paper, and Forbes Travel, among others. He’s from Maryland and has a weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Washington DC

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside DC

You could use a little space.

Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock
Regine Poirier/Shutterstock

When people say Washington, DC, it’s hard to tell if they’re talking about The District proper, or the sprawling metro area that is sometimes nicknamed the DMV: The District, Maryland, and Virginia. The fact is that DC is made whole by its vibrant suburbs, whether you’re looking for a shopping center dedicated almost entirely to Vietnamese cuisine, a rock climbing wall in-you guessed it-Rockville, or a wetland preserve that’s wide open for hiking and fresh air.

The DC suburbs practically have it all, and you can reach many of these neighborhoods by bike, public transit, or a set of four wheels. Here are eight great suburban destinations that you may find yourself visiting soon. We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville
Earth Treks Rockville

Rockville

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Many people will inevitably cruise Rockville Pike, aka 355, for all of its big-box delights, since this retail corridor has always been a sprawly place to shop for decades. But more recently, Rockville has become something entirely different. It’s walkable and bikeable, thanks to the Pike & Rose development. And it remains a destination for some of the best Chinese soup dumplings in the DMV at A&J Restaurant and Bob’s Shanghai 66. Rockville is also, fittingly, home to the best rock climbing wall attracting serious spelunkers and climbing newbies alike. And it remains a place for family-run restaurants, many of which are run by immigrants. For a small taste of the magic of this Montgomery County suburb, visit Bombay Bistro for Chef K.N.Vinod and Surfy Rahman’s take on Indian fare from the country’s southern region. Like many of the best eateries in Rockville, this restaurant is tucked away in a shopping strip. When you find it, you’ll be rewarded with mouth-watering dosas, biryani, and vindaloo.

Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette
Fresh Baguette

Bethesda

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
Anyone who grew up near Bethesda has probably spent their early teenage years loitering at the Bethesda’s Regal Cinema or by The Barnes & Noble water fountain. Now, both of those legendary spots of yesteryear have been transformed into a suburban-style city with sidewalk cafes, trendy shopping, and an upgraded Capital Crescent Trail-a longtime favorite with joggers and bikers. Bethesda is also home to a world of flavors: Fresh Baguette for Parisian-style pastries, Pesca Deli for Portuguese, Taqueria El Jalapeño for tasty tacos, and Passage to India just to name a few. To reach all of these places, you can hop aboard the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle service that picks you up at the Bethesda Metro station and takes you in a loop around town.

Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks
Brookside Gardens, Montgomery Parks

Wheaton

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
There is absolutely no beating Wheaton when a food craving hits, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This Maryland suburb, just north of DC on Metro’s red line, has one of the best diners in the region, Nick’s Diner, owned and operated by Nick Markopoulos and his Greek family. For lunch, Wheaton is home to a handful of pupuserias that are indicative of this neighborhood’s Salvadoran community. Pupuseria La Familiar, Los Chorros, and Irene’s Pupusas are three great options. Finally, for dinner, Peruvian chicken at El Pollo Rico or Bolivian fare, and specifically the beef silpancho, at Kantuta’s are hearty and tasty offerings. Finish your day of dining on a high note with a cannoli or rainbow cookie from Filippo’s Deli. After a day of eating, you’ll need to walk off all those carbs. Go for a leisurely stroll around the pond at Wheaton Regional Park’s Brookside Gardens. The park is a five-minute drive north of Wheaton’s retail corridor, and it’s free and open to the public year-round.

Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.

Hyattsville

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
A brewery tour is a safe bet when visiting Hyattsville, Maryland-a community with a small-town vibe, located in Prince George’s County, just across The District line. A primary reason why beer nerds flock here is Franklins, a brewpub that last year opened a tiki-themed bar in its parking lot to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than a dozen beers on tap, plus Franklins makes its own root beer if you prefer some nonalcoholic suds. That’s in addition to a historic hardware shop that’s been converted into a bottle shop, with a wide collection of craft beer and local wine. Nearby on Route 1, find a local brewery that specializes in outdoor drinking. Streetcar 82 Brewing Co. opened two years ago and is named in homage to the 82 Streetcar line which ran by the brewery’s site from 1888 to 1957. This converted auto garage now serves hop-forward beers and has bike rack parking and picnic tables, perfect for a Sunday Funday. For more craft beers from around the country paired with wood-fired pizza, Pizzeria Paradiso is a top-notch eater across the street, and cap off your crawl by swinging by Maryland Meadworks, which serves a range of meads from sweet to semi-sweet to dry.

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary
Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary

Upper Marlboro

Distance from DC: 45 minutes
Fulfill your childhood wonder and delight at the greatest playground in the DMV. Watkins Regional Park is great for kids (or the kid at heart) looking to romp around themed playgrounds. The first is a horse-racing-themed playground, part of Maryland’s legacy as a horse racing capital. Meanwhile, the second option is the stuff of fairy tales-a Wizard of Oz-inspired playground, complete with a yellow brick road, a ruby slippers slide, and an Emerald City climbing wall. Grownups and kids alike will also enjoy the hiking options at nearby Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, an expansive preserve that’s part of the tidal reaches of the Patuxent River. There are more than 1,700 acres of unique freshwater marshes, forested wetlands, creeks, meadows, pines and sand barrens, plus fields and park areas for an afternoon picnic. If you’d rather fuel up than bring-your-own food, Upper Marlboro’s Main Street Coffee & Treats is where the community gathers for coffee, pastries, fresh-pressed juices, and vegan cupcakes at all hours of the day.

Photo Courtesy of Ada's on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River
Photo Courtesy of Ada’s on the River

Old Town Alexandria

Distance from DC: 20 minutes
With waterfront views, historic homes along cobblestone streets, and a trolley that goes up and down King Street for free, it’s hard not to imagine why Old Town Alexandria wouldn’t be on our suburban list. You might come for the charm, but there’s a lot more to this city than just Instagram-worthy streetscapes. The Torpedo Factory is a burgeoning artist enclave for purchasing one-of-a-kind sculptures and artwork. Those who prefer a pleasure cruise down the Potomac can take the Potomac River Water Taxi to or from the city. And outdoor eating by the water offers plenty of space and social distance. The food and outdoor surroundings at Ada’s on the River and King & Rye, two of Alexandria’s latest eatery additions, are great places to book a weekend brunch.

Eden Center
Eden Center
Eden Center

Falls Church

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
Most people know Falls Church as the home of Eden Center-a shopping center with dozens of Vietnamese businesses and restaurants. This might be the biggest draw for Falls Church food lovers. However, there are several more reasons to make this Northern Virginia suburb a part of your food bucket list. Start at Takumi, a popular Japanese sushi spot, serving quality grade sashimi, sake, and sushi tastings. Got a craving for cavatelli? Then book it to Thomspon Italian. Chef Gabe Thompson and Pastry Chef Katherine Thompson are a husband and wife team who make this spot feel more like home. While the dining room remains closed, Thompson is offering several of its top dishes, including housemade pasta and gelatos, for pickup.

Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap
Wolf Trap

Tysons Corner

Distance from DC: 30 minutes
When you visit Tysons Corner, you’re probably here to do one thing-shop until you drop. Tysons is home to two malls, sometimes nicknamed Tysons I (Tysons Corner Center) and Tysons II (Tysons Galleria). The former is pretty typical while the latter leans more upscale. Not surprisingly, Tysons II also has good taste in food. Find the Urbanspace Food Hall, home to Donburi DC and Andy’s Pizza, plus an upscale pastry shop called Lady M. Aside from the shopping and dining, another good reason to visit Tysons this summer might be for a concert. The Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts recently announced its outdoor summer concert lineup, which could start as soon as the end of May. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!

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Tim Ebner is a contributor for Thrillist. 

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