Surfing the Capital: Getting to know the Washington area through local websites and blogs

By Esther Hidalgo, Host Committee Member

Washington D.C., like any other city, is not without its customs, codes and quirks. For instance everyone in DC walks to the left and stands to the right; this is especially important on Metro escalators, and long, leisurely Sunday brunches. You don’t have to live in the District to know what makes makes the city tick. If you crave an insider’s view into what life is really like inside the beltway, there are a few local blogs and websites that many Washingtonians live by. Not only are these sites a great way to familiarize yourself with D.C. culture and activities, they also provide insights about local news, issues, and life behind the hype. What follows is a selection of culture and news sites spanning a range of topics,  interests, and quadrants.

General News and Entertainment


The popular website, which was recently acquired and revived by NPR affiliate station WAMU 88.5 FM after abruptly shutting down in late 2017, covers District news, arts & culture, and food. For fun, check out their long-running, reader-contributed section called Overheard in DC at



Citypaper.pngThe Washington City Paper is an alternative weekly newspaper focusing on local news, investigative journalism, and the arts, as well as some syndicated columns, such as Savage Love, by Dan Savage. Past contributors and staff have included award-winning journalists such as David Carr and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Peruse their annual Best of D.C. list ( for local residents’ top picks for Arts & Entertainment, Food & Drink, Goods & Services, and People & Places.


BYT (aka Brightest Young Things)  publishes online articles, guides and event promotions about D.C. arts, culture, and dining. Check out the continuously updated Stuff to do in DC page ( or sign up for their DC Best Weekend Bets and Gay DC Best Weekend Bets newsletter ( for fresh weekly list of popular, off the wall events and “to-dos”.

Brunching DC-style

Bitches Who Brunch, which began as a food and Washington lifestyle blog, was founded by two friends who wanted to document their adventures while living in D.C. The image-heavy posts include reviews of fun new restaurants, bars and rooftop locations, as well as weekly roundups.



Bottomless Mimosa, another local blog founded by good friends, includes posts about brunch, Washington life, and “general nerdiness”. The blog, whose name is a nod to the tradition of area restaurants offering  “bottomless” mimosas (continuously refilled mimosa drinks) during brunch, includes a page dedicated to brunch deals by neighborhood.


Music & Visual Arts

DC Rocks  is a personal blog focused mainly on local rock music and DC culture, and features a monthly calendar of events and performances in the DC Metro Area.DC rocks.png

East City Arts, bills itself as “DC’s Alternative Art Source”. The outlet covers visual arts and artists in regions in Eastern DC, such as River East, Brookland, Capitol Hill, and the H street NE Corridor, as well as areas “just outside the diamond” such as Hyattsville, MD, and parts of Northern Virginia. Articles include interviews with artists, reviews, classes and gallery events and artist talks.



Daily Campello Art News, which is maintained by local visual artist F. Lennox Campello includes postings for upcoming gallery receptions, exhibitions, artist calls and arts-related news updates. Daily Campello.png




A Selection of Neighborhood Blogs

Sociology in my Neighborhood: DC Ward Six focuses on social issues, such as race and racism, housing, poverty and gentrification that affect local residents in Ward 6 and beyond. The blog also includes links to interesting sociology tools and products, including links to Census data, and the NY Times Race Map.Sociology in my Neighborhood.png

Frozen Tropics blog posts information about commerce, events and general happenings north of Capitol Hill, along the H Street corridor, and in Trinidad in NE, DC. The page is well-organized, and features a helpful categorical drop-down lists of venues, storefronts, and locations.Frozen Tropics.png

New Columbia Heights  is a neighborhood blog run by a long-time DC resident. The blog includes posts about the history of Columbia Heights, as well as news and reviews of local businesses, events and resident profiles. Check out the recent retrospective post about Anthony Bourdain’s visits to DC establishments.New CH.png

According to Georgetown Metropolitan’s About page , the blog name is taken from an actual newspaper that was published “in the city of Georgetown, DC” in the early 1800’s. The blog is maintained by long-time Georgetownian Topher Mathews and includes articles about the history of Georgetown, as well as contemporary happenings. Washingtonians know that Georgetown is not the most easily accessible DC neighborhoo, but it can be done with the help of the NextBus trip scheduler posted on the site at  Georgetown Metropolitan.png


Day Trip to Annapolis

By Elaine Bachmann, Host Committee Member

If Oxford in the UK is known as the “city of dreaming spires” then Annapolis could be known as the “city of dreaming domes–and steeples.” The skyline is dominated by the domes of the State House and the Naval Academy Chapel–representing the two institutions of government that have defined significant portions of the city’s nearly 400 year old history–along with the steeple of St. Anne’s Church. St. Anne’s is the original “church” placed in the baroque town plan laid out by Francis Nicholson in 1695 radiating from two circles: one containing the ‘publick’ building and one containing the ‘church.’



Today you can visit all three of these landmarks along with many other historic buildings and sites, just a 45 minute drive from downtown DC.

Maryland’s capital since 1695, Annapolis was also the first peacetime capital of the new United States, since it was in this city that the Treaty of Paris was ratified by Congress, officially ending the Revolutionary War in 1784. You can learn about this event and much more by visiting the Maryland State House, a national historic landmark.


Maryland State House


The Old Senate Chamber, Maryland State House

If immersing yourself in colonial history and buildings (and there are more extant original 18th century structures in Annapolis than in any other American city) is your goal, take advantage of visiting the sites operated by Historic Annapolis Foundation. HA also has a museum and gift shop (perfect for nautically themed gifts) at the foot of Main Street.


William Paca House and Garden

For many people “Annapolis” means the United States Naval Academy, and visitors are welcome to stroll through historic “Gate 1” near the City Dock (have a photo ID handy, you’ll need it for the State House too) and take a guided tour, or wander on your own through the grounds of the Academy.  Don’t miss stepping inside the Chapel, and visit the museum located in Preble Hall.


Naval Academy , Gate 1


Naval Academy Chapel

And if local flavor is what you’ve come for, there are plenty of options for the casual diner who wants to grab a snack and some ice cream on Main Street along with a host of restaurants along West Street, all within walking distance of downtown. If you are looking to sit down and enjoy the water views (and admire the variety of boats coming and going from the many local waterways), here are a couple great spots just over the bridge to Eastport:

Carroll’s Creek Cafe

Boatyard Bar and Grill

Come on Wednesday evening and catch the weekly sailboat races sponsored by the Annapolis Yacht Club. This is a great way to experience the sailing tradition in Annapolis and makes for a very enjoyable view from any waterfront restaurant deck.


And just over the Naval Academy Bridge, with a terrific outdoor deck that overlooks the Severn River, is The Severn Inn



Oh, and if you’ve come looking to partake in that great Maryland tradition of picking crabs, the most venerable of local crab houses is Cantler’s

However, although it’s little out of the way, (and you’ll wonder where you are headed as you drive through a residential area), it’s worth the drive to Arnold to experience The Pointe Crab House (which has much more than crabs). There will be a wait, but you can grab a drink and stroll along the shore of Mill Creek and admire the many boats (and waterfowl) while you wait for your table.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t put a plug in for visiting the Maryland State Archives, located on Rowe Boulevard with easy access either on your way into, or out of, downtown Annapolis. Right now, in honor of the bicentennial of the birth of Frederick Douglass, the Archives has mounted an exhibit about Douglass, including the display of the only known record of his birth–the 1818 slave ledger kept by his owner and in the collection of the Archives.



Portion of the Frederick Douglass exhibit, Maryland State Archives

For a lot more information about visiting Annapolis, check out the city’s website below.














Step inside the book: DC By the Book

Jen King, Host Committee Member

Are you one of those people who likes to read novels set in a city before visiting? If so, here’s a great website and app that use excerpts from a list of DC-based fiction to encourage exploration of the District.

DC By the Book is a crowd-sourcing database and associated app created and managed by the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL). The project was developed by the DCPL with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Studies’ Library Services and Technology Act grant program.

From the website, users may read excerpts, use the mapping feature to locate geographic locations or specific titles to see what has already been mapped, and add content to the database. There is also a comprehensive list of books currently included in the database. Here is your reading list of fiction set in DC.


The search features also allow you to use a zip code and find the books mapped for the part of the District you want to explore. For example, if you type in 20008, the zip code for the neighborhood of the Marriott Wardman Park, you can read excerpts of books that describe parts of DC near the conference hotel. Also, use the May/June Archival Outlook Host Committee suggestions for cool neighborhoods to visit and, while exploring, use DC By the Book to read descriptions of these neighborhoods found in fiction.


In addition to the ever-expanding website the project also created an app available for both iphone and android that currently has 8 walking tours of different neighborhoods or specific books with the excerpts that correspond to geographic locations. Each tour includes specific excerpts and a map for easy navigation. Some tour stops include audio and photographs to provide context and a more interactive experience. You may walk or bike (remember you can rent a bike through Capital Bikeshare) along any selected route, none more than 3 miles, and read a description while you stand on the same street corner or look at the same building the author describes.

Host Committee member John Martinez recommends the U Street corridor as a cool neighborhood to explore. While visiting this historic neighborhood consider taking the less than 1 mile tour on the app and you will find yourself reading excerpts from local authors including George Pelacanos, Connie Briscoe, Kia DuPree, and Edward P. Jones.


Curtain Up – DC Small Theatre and Performance Spaces

By Rosalye Settles, Host Committee Member

Washington, DC is a theater town offering a range of cultural experiences for all audiences. Playwrights, directors, and actors have long recognized the City for its variety of stages where everyone can find the best seat in the house. DC theaters have been hailed by Variety and The New York Times for staging daring and thought-provoking productions. Many theaters have been the recipient of prestigious Helen Hayes Awards. August is somewhat of a hiatus for the theater community, but several venues offer entertainment options during the 2018 SAA Joint Annual meeting. Below are a few suggestions.

Arena Stage

The theater located on the Southwest waterfront is well known for showcasing new plays and playwrights. Founded in 1950 by Zelda Fichandler and Edward Mangum, Arena was one of the first regional non-profit theaters in the U.S. and a pioneer of the regional theater movement. Arena was one of the first regional theaters to transfer a production to Broadway. Its production of The Great White Hope, which opened at Arena Stage in 1967, went on to Broadway with its original cast, including James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander in the lead roles.  In 1976, Arena Stage became the second theater outside New York to receive a special Tony Award for theatrical excellence. Most recently Arena’s production of Dear Evan Hanson went on to win the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical. The world premiere musical Dave adapted from the Oscar nominated film runs from July 13 until August 19. Arena has an expansive view of the river and offers dining options before performances. The theater is a short walk from Metro’s Green line Waterfront Station.

Folger Shakespeare

Folger Theatre performs innovative productions designed to forge strong connections with modern audiences, continuing the lively legacy of William Shakespeare. While Shakespeare’s plays are central to its mission, Folger Theatre has produced a variety of other classical works, as well as new plays related to the Folger collection or inspired by Shakespeare. Since 1991 lead by Artistic Producer Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre has received 154 nominations and 30 Helen Hayes Awards for excellence in acting, direction, design, and production.

The Folger will be sponsoring a showing of the animated Disney film The Lion King, billed as Bard in the Park – Lion King on August 16. The showing will be projected on the big screen in Canal Park at the Capitol Riverfront. (the Disney film was influenced by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet). This classic animated movie tale begins at sundown. Canal Park is located at 200 M Street SE and is within walking distance of the Metro Green line Navy Yard station.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – Millennium Stage

Kennedy CenterDC’s iconic theater is well known for world-class performances and is home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. This summer the Center will be staging the 2016 Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple and Lin-Manual Miranda’s mega Tony Award-winning musical Hamilton. Hamilton tickets are sold out. But, all is not lost. You can still experience the Center’s architectural grandeur and enjoy a performance on its Millennium Stage. The Center hosts free performance 365 days a year at 6 p.m. as part of its “Performing Arts for Everyone” program. Millennium Stage features a broad spectrum of art forms, from renowned and emerging local, national, and international artists.  No tickets are required, though seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.  Since 1999, each daily performance has also been broadcast live over the internet to millions on YouTube, Facebook Live and the Kennedy Center’s own website. The Millennium Stage has been hailed as “a cultural institution within a cultural institution” by the Washington Post. The Center offers a free shuttle from Metro’s Foggy Bottom Station.

If you would like to experience some local cultural performance, be sure to take a look at DC Theatre Scene for the most up to date events in DC.  Curtain Up!

Books about the Real D.C.

By Katie Seitz, Host Committee Member

It’s no surprise that Washington, DC, the seat of US government, has captured the literary imagination. But for those of us who live here, the city has always been about more than politicians, cherry blossoms, and hunting treasure using inscrutable masonic symbols found on our monuments and public buildings. For your enjoyment and edification we’ve gathered some of the books and authors that showcase DC as a living city with deep roots.


knownEdward P. Jones is the doyen of DC literature, the recipient of almost every major literary award  for his books about 19th and 20th-century working-class African Americans in and near DC. If you’re looking for shorter works, the first and third of his three books – Lost in the City, The Known World, and All Aunt Hagar’s Children – are linked short story collections. Jones himself is a professor of English at George Washington University.

Another quintessentially DC writer is Marita Golden, widely known for her writing, editing, and literary activism as the co-founder of the African-American Writers Guild and the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Her novel After, about an African American police officer grappling with having shot an unarmed black man, is set in a DC-adjacent Maryland suburb. The Wide Circumference of Love, her most recent novel, follows a DC family grappling with love and loss as its patriarch slowly succumbs to Alzheimer’s disease. If you enjoy memoirs, be sure to check out her Migrations of the Heart, which is set partly in the District.

The acclaimed novel The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, by Ethiopian American writer Dinaw Mengestu, tells the story of Sepha Stephanos, an Ethiopian immigrant running a failing grocery store in DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood. The novel highlights the connections and divisions between residents amidst the runaway gentrification of DC neighborhoods and at its heart, the impact of trauma and migration on Ethiopian immigrant communities.

dcnboirFor an enjoyable look at the seamier side of DC, try the DC Noir anthologies. Both volumes were edited by noted DC-based crime writer George Pelecanos and strive to represent the whole of the city and a diversity of writers. Pelecanos says in his introduction to DC Noir 1, “[i]t’s about the collective memories of the locals, and also about the voices. If you close your eyes and listen to the people of this city, you will hear the many different voices . . .We have tried to explore every quadrant of the city and many of the neighborhoods within them.” Pelecanos himself – a DC native – is the obvious choice for a DC-centric crime/noir novelist. If you haven’t already read one of his thrillers, get to it!


Some of the best histories of DC explore aspects of the city and its culture that are underrepresented or overlooked. Jesse Holland’s The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slavery Inside the White House and Black Men Built The Capitol: Discovering African American History In and Around Washington, D.C. both address the historical fact of slavery in DC. Holland’s book includes the ironic fact that the Statue of Freedom adorning the dome of the Capitol building owes its existence to an enslaved artisan named Philip Reed, who reassembled the model from its original plaster and cast in bronze.

Another interesting look into the lesser-known corners of DC history is District Comics: An Unconventional History of Washington, DC. This 40-entry graphic anthology spans 1794-2009 and touches on everything from dueling and the design of the DC metro to outsider art and the Senate’s secret speakeasy.

gogoThe last recommendation takes the music for which DC is best known, go-go, and uses it as a lens to discuss race, class, gentrification, and change in DC over the last forty years. Natalie Hopkinson’s Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City brings a deep and personal understanding of what a changing DC means to the cultural identity and lived experience of its residents.


So what if you’ve done your literary tour of the real DC and still find yourself craving the mystic, masonic, and semiotic? What if, at the end of the day, you just want to know what the deal is with that eye-pyramid thing on the dollar bill? For you, we have just the ticket – a Do-It-Yourself Lost Symbol Tour of Washington D.C. When you figure out the eye-pyramid, let us know.