Whether you're a business traveler seeking respite or a leisure visitor eager to explore, here's an in-depth guide to the city’s myriad offerings for relaxation, well-being and enjoyment.
When you think of DC, images of historic monuments may come to mind. However, beyond its renowned landmarks, the nation's capital is a treasure trove of leisure and wellness experiences waiting to be discovered.
Lush green retreats and open spaces
Picture yourself in the midst of a bustling city surrounded by 40 downtown hotels, all strategically placed near the heart of DC's urban greenery. The focal points are none other than the sprawling National Mall and the expansive Rock Creek Park – a natural wonder twice the size of New York City's Central Park. The National Mall, affectionately known as "America's Front Yard," boasts fountains, parks and lush gardens that beckon strolls, picnics and moments of serenity.
Imagine jogging along verdant two-mile pathways stretching from the iconic U.S. Capitol to the revered Lincoln Memorial – an experience that combines fitness with awe-inspiring history. This leisurely run is not just a workout, but a bucket-list experience for any traveler looking to infuse their trip with a sense of accomplishment.
Arts and culture as a path to mindfulness
Lose yourself in the arts to achieve a sense of mindfulness while in the nation’s capital. The city’s extensive collection of free Smithsonian museums (National Museum of the American Indian pictured above) allows you to immerse yourself in knowledge and cultures from around the world and throughout history. Experience the wonder of contemporary music, jazz and chamber orchestra concerts at the Library of Congress or enjoy free musical performances at the National Gallery of Art and the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage.
Public parks and gardens
Embracing its status as one of the most walkable cities in the United States, Washington, DC is a sanctuary filled with public parks and gardens. It's no surprise that the city was rated as having the nation's best park system according to the Trust for Public Land's 2022 ParkScore® index. Whether it's a meditative stroll through the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden or practicing yoga amidst the foliage at Transit Pier in the Wharf, DC's green spaces offer a refreshing escape.
Hotels that champion wellness
In an embrace of a new era of wellness, DC hotels are revolutionizing the hospitality experience. From enhancing fitness facilities with natural light and outdoor workout areas to offering special amenities like hydration stations and morning group classes, the Marriott Marquis, The Morrow Hotel, The Darcy, Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill and Westin Georgetown Washington, DC are just a few of the locales redefining healthy stays. The Westin Georgetown Washington, DC partners with Hyperice, introducing Hypervolt recovery stations for guests, while the Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown features 12 wellness rooms complete with air purifiers, Tempur-Pedic mattresses and Vitamin C showers. Eaton Hotel goes beyond with crystal greetings and Himalayan salt lamps, providing wellness services like yoga, reiki and sound baths. The Hay-Adams offers a Music Salon for intimate live performances and an Author Series for literary discourse. Through programs like Healthy Stays, hotels ensure guest safety, reflecting a commitment to holistic well-being.
Dive into culinary delights
DC's gastronomic landscape has evolved to cater to health-conscious palates. From the delectable offerings of Chaia Taco, featuring fresh vegetables sourced from local farms, to Clyde's, a pioneer in supporting local producers, you'll find a plethora of options that delight your taste buds while nourishing your body.
Elizabeth's Gone Raw, which operates exclusively on weekends as a 100% raw vegan restaurant, is housed in a restored 19th century townhouse and was conceptualized in response to founder Elizabeth's cancer diagnosis. The restaurant presents a distinctive seven-course tasting menu orchestrated by chef Francisco Hernandez and sommelier Dora Lobo.
Don't miss out on Oyster Oyster, where vegetables take center stage and redefine how you perceive plant-based cuisine. Additionally, Founding Farmers demonstrates its commitment to sustainability by sourcing ingredients directly from American family farmers, offering a guilt-free dining experience.
Indulge in zero-proof elixirs
For those opting for non-alcoholic options, DC's beverage scene has expanded to cater to your preferences. Savor creative mocktails at Fiola, explore the unique offerings at Moon Rabbit (pictured above) or enjoy happy hours with zero-proof drinks at various speakeasies and bars around the city. Binge Bar promises to be a game-changer, offering an array of alcohol-free choices, complemented by Filipino-inspired small plates and entertainment.
Zen spaces and serene havens
The architecture of Washington, DC showcases diversity well beyond its historic monuments and memorials. Seek tranquility at the Library of Congress's Reading Room, an exquisite interior that invites you to immerse yourself in reading. The Vietnam Memorial and the serene Franciscan Monastery gardens offer spaces for quiet reflection.
If you're drawn to the healing power of plants, explore the Bonsai Museum and China Valley at the U.S. National Arboretum or the soothing water features at the National Portrait Gallery. For a true blend of art and tranquility, visit the Bishop's Garden at the Washington National Cathedral or take a journey through history at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens.
Hotels in Washington DC offer spa amenities from traditional treatments to taking the waters. Some hotels will include a day pass to the spa lounge and pool when you book a treatment, whether you are a guest of the hotel or not. The city's full-service spas include: The Waldorf Astoria, distinguished by its Himalayan Salt Therapy Room and The Sanctuary relaxation area; Rosewood Hotel in Georgetown, which provides a menu of spa services; Salamander, Washington DC offers eight private treatment rooms, lavish lounges and an impressive array of pools and facilities; Four Seasons Washington DC features a lap pool and cherry blossom-themed facials; The Watergate includes a modern spa with services like the Vitamin DC facial; and The Pendry, known for its intimate setting, private treatment rooms, eucalyptus steam rooms and the inclusion of access to the outdoor heated terrace pool and fitness center for longer treatments.
Elevate your spirits with breathtaking views
Washington, DC's unique skyline, characterized by blue hues punctuated by the Washington Monument, provides a picturesque backdrop for relaxation. Enjoy serene views from the observation deck of the Old Post Office or the tower of the Washington National Cathedral. For a unique experience, sip and savor the beauty of the city from Moonraker, the Pendry Hotel's signature rooftop hideaway.
Discover waterfront escapes
DC's proximity to water offers a plethora of opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation. Whether you're kayaking on the Potomac or Anacostia or enjoying the serenity of reflecting pools and cascading waters at various venues, the soothing effect of water is never far away. Even the National Zoo's Bird House invites you to immerse yourself in the art of birdwatching, a hobby known for its stress-reducing benefits.
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