Why Now: A hip food scene, millennials galore and a revitalized downtown have turned D.C. from buttoned-up to buzzing. The best example: 14th Street NW, where boutiques, glam eateries and moody bars fill contemporary buildings and 19th-century row houses.
Where to Go: Bunk at mod hotel The Donovan, where guest rooms boast city views and the lobby holds swinging pod chairs. In the morning, stop into dinerlike Ted’s Bulletin for strong coffee and homemade Pop-Tarts in flavors such as peanut butter-bacon before hitting home-design shops Miss Pixie’s—a funky vintage furniture and art emporium—and Timothy Paul Bedding + Home, where Moroccan rugs and Turkish suzanis keep company with sleek sofas.
After 5 p.m., the artery’s restaurants hop with happy hour crowds and stroller-pushing locals. Tico, a pan-Latin newcomer, doles out cross-cultural small plates (chorizo risotto, crab BLT tacos) in a graffiti-muraled space. Aviation-themed old-timer Cafe Saint-Ex is another good pick for New American spins on burgers, pastas and seafood—which taste even better eaten on the sidewalk patio.
After dinner, check out the desserts and cheekily named cocktails such as the Peep Show (a gingery blend of Pimm’s and gin) at Red Light, a dimly lit watering hole named for the zone’s now distant shady past.
—Jennifer Barger, April 2015