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Why DC is Our Must-Visit Summer Getaway

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday July 12, 2021

There's no better time of year to head to our nation's capital to immerse yourself in LGBTQ culture and history. Summer is Washington, DC's not-so-hidden secret as savvy travelers take advantage of terrific hotel deals, iconic museums, and bustling nightlife.

The District brims with diverse queer representation and is easily accessible by car, train or plane — but with so many possibilities, where do you begin? EDGE has curated some of our favorite DC picks for your next trip. So all you need to do is start planning!

Stay Cool at the Smithsonian Institution

Why choose one museum, gallery or zoo when you could have 17? Our polyamorous love for this incredible collection dates back to James Smithson, the illegitimate son of a wealthy Englishman who never stepped foot on American soil and might have been gay. Regardless of the reasons behind his substantial donation, you'll discover a staggering 150 million-piece collection that remains free for visitors.

This year marks the Smithsonian's 175th anniversary with plenty to discover. Some of our favorite DC museum highlights include:

The National Museum of African American History & Culture — Celebrating its fifth anniversary this September, the museum remains the only national museum solely dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history and culture. Curators have also documented more than one hundred LGBTQ objects within the collection, including a documentary film about James Baldwin, photos of Audre Lorde, Marsha P. Johnson, and New York City's ballroom scene, as well as a substantial retrospective of BLK magazine, which ran from 1988 to 1994, growing from local Black LGBTQ coverage into a nationally recognized publication.

National Portrait Gallery — From a comprehensive collection of American presidential portraits to pop culture and sports figures, the National Portrait Gallery offers a window into the souls of some of our country's most influential figures. Queer representation can be found in a 1998 photograph of Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, a portrait of gay activist Dustin Lance Black by artist Louis Briel, and archival videos from the Gallery's 2011 exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," about the roles of sexuality and gender in modern America.

The Kennedy Center Turns 50

Theater, dance, music and comedy converge at this cultural institution, marking its 50th anniversary this year. Engraved quotes from our 35th president appear along the building's façade, offering inspiration for both participants and observers of the arts.

The cultural institution's latest expansion, The REACH, includes a light-filled Welcome Pavilion, studio and gallery spaces, an intimate lecture hall, gardens and outdoor venues where you can discover an array of original programming such as "On Deck: Women Shedding Through Boundaries" (August 26-28), an all-inclusive festival featuring women in action sports and music. In addition, the 2021-22 theater season includes national tours of Broadway's best, including "Hadestown," "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Prom," and more.

Citi Open Tennis Tournament, July 31 — August 8

Tennis fans are ready to return to Rock Creek Park Tennis Center for this annual tradition, which promises thrilling aces, volleys, and drop shots. Superfans can purchase full series packages that will put your courtside to witness some of the best players in the world in action. Past winners have included Sloane Stephens, Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, and the legendary Arthur Ashe.

A Taste of DC

Some of the world's best chefs have opened culinary outposts in DC, including 124 Michelin-recognized restaurants such as the splurge-worthy Gravitas, serving chef Matt Baker's modern American creations. But great dining throughout the District doesn't have to break the bank, especially during Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week. Returning August 9 — 15, diners can experience some of DC's most innovative restaurants, with prix fixe menus ranging from $22-$55.


Gay-owned KNEAD Hospitality + Design is the creative force behind many of DC's best dining experiences, including Mi Vida, helmed by celebrated chef and Mexico City native Roberto Santibañez.
Rasika may also tempt your palate with restaurateur Ashok Bajaj's contemporary take on tawa, sigri, and tandoori-style Indian fare.

Whether you're looking for happy hour, a nightcap, or someplace to linger all evening, DC's rooftop bars and restaurants offer plenty of options. And thanks to building height restrictions enacted by Congress in 1899, you're likely to catch a great view, too.

Catch a glimpse of the White House, Washington Monument, and other landmarks from the W Hotel Washington DC's POV rooftop, where you'll discover politically inspired cocktails such as Ghost in the White House (gin, Aperol, cinnamon smoke) or Yes We Can (vodka, kombucha, limoncello).

The bears come out to play at Uproar, where a bucket of beers is the perfect way to make new friends and get tips from local queers on what not to miss.

A Work-Free Labor Day Weekend

As summer marches on, many of us have eyes on the last big weekend before a new season descends upon us. So take advantage of a three-day weekend (or longer!) to experience DC's waterfront activities like the hottest new destination, The Wharf, where you'll discover brand new hotels, entertainment and dining venues, and a new location for one of the city' most iconic bookstores, Politics and Prose.

And why just look at the water when you can be on it? Take a city cruise or burn some calories by renting a kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard.

There are also plenty of romantic places in DC to discover, such as a spin on the Capital Wheel at National Harbor or a spirit tasting at one of the District's distilleries.

Stay at One of DC's Newest (and LGBTQ-Friendly) Hotels

The Ven at Embassy Row is one of Marriott's newest Tribute Portfolio hotels, a collection of independent boutique properties that "create spaces with spirit" and showcase unique design details and amenities. Cozy but contemporary, the Ven's design aesthetic reflects the Danish concept of "hygge" (a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being).

Marriott International, once again, earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaigns' annual Corporate Equality Index, recognizing its diversity, equality, and inclusion.

As tempted as you may be to spend all day in bed at The Ven, the District will tempt you to spend the day discovering all that the DC has to offer. Our suggestion? Book an extra night!

Ready to start planning? Visit Washington.org.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.