With the cherry blossoms come scores of leisure tourists and high hotel rates that planners and attendees would be wise to avoid when considering Washington, D.C. That’s not to say the nation’s capital is not an excellent destination for an event. Still, a few poor choices can make the experience sour—take it from someone born and raised in the area and who lived there for a decade post-college. In other words, take it from me and this advice to do D.C. right away.
1. Fall for the fall. As mentioned, spring is when cherry blossoms and tourism bloom in D.C. Try another season to minimize waits at some of the city’s landmarks. Fall, for instance, has pleasant temperatures and little precipitation.
2. Keep it close. One of the best aspects of Washington is it’s a significant city that isn’t very big. That means you can plan many of your events within walking distance, thus cutting down on cab costs and ensuring attendees won’t get caught in a Metro delay.
3. Encourage the Smithsonian. It amazes me how many visitors think the Smithsonian is one museum. It comprises 19 museums and the National Zoo, where giant pandas live. Better yet, they are all free, and most make for unusual venues for receptions or other off-site events.
4. Dine diversely. D.C. is known for its burgers and cupcakes but excels at ethnic foods. Jose Andres’ famed tapas restaurant Jaleo in Penn Quarter is great for groups looking to share foods—and also has locations in Bethesda, Maryland (ahem, medical meetings), and Crystal City, Virginia (appealing to associations as it is minutes from Reagan National Airport). A trip to Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia, for Vietnamese pho and bubble tea is highly recommended. Attendees in suburban Maryland would be crazy not to head to the great Parkway Deli & Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland, which has a vibrant arts scene filled with African-American and Jewish history.
5. Experience revitalization. Planners should direct attendees toward the Navy Yard area, home of Nationals Park, and the H Street corridor, home of many millennials, so they can witness a modern metropolis transforming. It may inspire attendees to bring back lessons for their organizations to complete a makeover.