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It may be the centre of US government, but Washington isn’t just for political junkies. Across the city, new neighbourhoods are developing as residents flock to the suburbs, opening fashion boutiques, restaurants and breweries as they go – no wonder Forbes magazine named it America’s coolest city for 2014. Local magazine editor Garret M. Graff lists six reasons why it’s worth extending your stay after business is done
Little Serow – a no-reservations, 28-seat northern Thai restaurant located in a townhouse basement near Dupont Circle – is one of the city’s hottest foodie establishments: the proof is in the queue out front (and the spicy food inside). Chef Johnny Monis opened it after his wedding in Thailand, and now the friendly young staff serve up a set menu of seven rotating dishes – such as pork ribs marinated in Mekhong whisky – for $45 a person.
The private residence of Marjorie Merriweather Post – once one of the nation’s wealthiest women – has been preserved as a charming, sprawling homage to her expansive gardens and art collection, which includes perhaps the largest collection of Russian imperial art outside of St. Petersburg – including more than 70 jewelled works by Fabergé.
With new tiger cubs, two sets of lion cubs and even a baby panda – plus a new herd of seven elephants roaming expanded wooded paths – the Smithsonian’s free zoological park in Woodley Park is experiencing a renaissance unprecedented in its 125-year history, and remains a crowd-pleaser for visitors of all ages.
Hidden behind the city’s main train station, Union Station, this converted warehouse now hosts a bustling, upscale food emporium, with stores and food stalls selling anything from artisanal ice cream and ramen to oysters and exotic cheeses. Don’t miss picking up some cute gifts at home goods store Salt & Sundry.
Under the artistic direction of Michael Kahn, the Shakespeare Theatre runs shows throughout the year, from ambitious traditional performances (such as a five-hour version of Henry IV Parts I and II) to more contemporary classics by Noel Coward – and offers regular star performances by thespians such as Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart.
While the main Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall attracts hordes of visiting schoolchildren, locals know that the museum’s annex at Dulles Airport is actually the superior visitor experience. It is home to scores of aircraft, ranging from the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane to the space shuttle Discovery. It also has knowledgeable tour guides – many of whom are retired pilots themselves – who offer 90-minute tours filled with their own personal stories.