When Friends (And Family!) Visit DC

Many of my friends from Southern California, where I was born and raised, still question what I love about DC. That is until they come to visit. It isn’t until they see the beauty of the leaves changing in fall, realize how awe-inspiring the monuments are up-close, eat cuisines they’ve never heard of before, and attend a concert or sporting event at our world-renowned venues, that they truly understand all that the nation’s capital has to offer. I love having friends visit and it’s easy in spring and fall to show friends around when the weather cooperates. But if you’re like me you may have friends who show up any time of year, so I’ve made a list of (mostly) indoor activities you can do with your out-of-town friends during winter that are sure to make them fall in love with the city like you have.


Assuming your friends get in to town early in the day and you can clock out of work in the afternoon, head straight to Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab near the White House for their Cocktail Hour. While Joe’s is fancier than your average happy hour spot in DC, the location and prices can’t be beat. Their deals run from 2:30-6:30 p.m. every day in the spacious bar area, which includes wrap-around seating as well as multiple high-tops. Food specials include oysters, sliders, fried chicken, lobster deviled eggs, and my personal favorite, mac-n-cheese sticks. Signature cocktails, wine and a great selection of local draft beers are all half priced.

The classic decor, outstanding service and the high possibility of seeing a DC celebrity means Joe’s is sure to impress your out-of-town peeps.

Close out your tab at Joe’s and head to the Capital One Arena to see the Stanley Cup Champions, your beloved Washington Capitals hit the ice. Anyone who has been to an NHL game knows how great the sport is to watch live and even if your friends aren’t Caps fans, any sports lover can appreciate the energy of a championship winning team. 

#FrayLife Tip: Tickets are available through Ticketmaster, but I prefer checking StubHub day-of to see if you can get a better deal. Once inside, be sure to give your friends a heads up on why the fans scream “O” and “red” extra loud during the National Anthem.

If you or your friends are still hungry, there are plenty of great food options in the arena. While you can never go wrong with nachos or popcorn, recent renovations to the arena mean there are new food and drink options everywhere. I’d recommend the chicken at Fuku, a burger from Lucky Buns, a platter from Rocklands BBQ, or Jane Dough Frozen Cookie Dough if you’re in the mood for something sweet. 


Saturday morning head to Union Market, which is a short walk from the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro. Described as an “urban village,” Union Market has a long history as a terminal market and home to wholesale operations. In its current form, the market serves as a trendy gathering place that includes local food stalls, fashion pop-ups, a multi-screen cinema and a Michelin star restaurant. 

#FrayLife Tip: No need to split a bill, and your friends can eat exactly what they want! This is the perfect spot for brunch with friends because each person can pick up food from a different stall and everyone can come back together to eat at the common area tables. 

Buffalo & Bergen is a favorite of mine for bagel sandwiches and knishes. They also serve classic egg creams and a killer bloody mary, if you are looking for something stronger. Arepa Zone’s Venezuelan sandwiches will cure any hangover, and DC Empanadas will fill you up with their unique flavor combinations. Check out Peregrine Espresso for your caffeine fix – ask the baristas for a recommendation and let them do their thing; they are great at what they do!

Once you’re done eating, I’d suggest circling back one more time to pick up some snacks for your afternoon activity: hitting up the distilleries in the area. I recommend a baguette from Lyon Bakery, some charcuterie from Red Apron Butchery and some dips from DC Mediterranean Corner.

After you’ve stocked up on snacks and had an extra glass of water, make the short walk to One Eight Distilling to start your distillery and brewery tour. The tasting room is open from 1-10 p.m. on Saturdays and there are three tours offered throughout the day. They’re releasing a new whiskey this fall that I cannot wait to try! Next head to Republic Restoratives, a woman-owned distillery with a bright and welcoming tasting room serving classic cocktails. They’re open 12-11 p.m. on Saturdays with three tours in the afternoon. After two distillery tours, I am sure you’ll be glad you picked up those snacks at Union Market!

If you’ve had enough liquor for the afternoon, finish your tour with some beers at Atlas Brewworks, a 100 percent solar-powered brewery. Their tap room is open from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on Saturdays and they offer four tours for you to choose from. The 1500 is my favorite Atlas beer but the Rowdy Rye or Damn Good IPA may be more up your alley. 

You’re going to need a serious dinner after a long day of drinking and you’ll wow your friends by taking a quick Uber, Lyft or taxi to Panda Gourmet. Well, your friends might be a bit hesitant at first as Panda Gourmet is hidden in the side of a Days Inn Motel off the busy New York Avenue, but they’ll be pleased as soon as you sit down and look at the menu. Far from your trendy American fusion restaurants in DC, Panda Gourmet serves up authentic Szechuan dishes sure to please a group. It’s best to share plates here so everyone can try some of their standard favorites as well as some more adventurous dishes they’ve never tried. After dinner here you’ll be full and happy and ready for bed.


On Sunday you should have your friends participate in the most sacred millennial tradition: brunch. My current favorite is Succotash in Penn Quarter. Here, James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee combines Korean and southern American dishes in a stunning setting (a former bank!) in the heart of the city. There is something for everyone on this menu, and the combination of cuisines means all of the dishes have a bit of a twist. If you love spice, I recommend the Dirty Chicken Cobb or the Gochujang Bloody Mary, which will leave you sweating. The Chicken & Waffles and Belle’s Punch will be better for your friend with a sweet tooth.

After brunch head a block east on F Street to the National Portrait Gallery. One of the smaller Smithsonians, this museum is home to Barack and Michelle Obama’s official portraits that were revealed last year. Take your friends here so they can selfie with the portraits and pick up some Obama swag in the gift shop. 

#FrayLife Tip:  The two portraits are on different floors and the line is usually much longer for the former President’s.

Next, you’ll do something your friends definitely can’t do where they live: ice skate at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. The outdoor rink is open to the public and costs under $15 per person including skate and locker rentals. Ice skating on the Mall is one of the cooler, no pun intended, experiences you can have during wintertime in DC.

Hopefully everyone in your friend group stays on their feet and is ready for the next adventure. Take the Green Line from Archives-Navy Memorial to the Waterfront metro stop. From there you’ll walk to DC’s hottest development: The Wharf. While this particular development is new, this area of the Southwest waterfront has been a major hub of development in the city for centuries because of its access to both the Potomac and Anacostia rivers as well as railways. The recent redevelopment of this area juxtaposes flashy new condos and high-end restaurants with the oldest operating fish market in America, the Maine Avenue Fish Market.

Warm up before walking around the shops by visiting Dolcezza or Blue Bottle for some coffee. Be sure to check out Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore that is a great place for your friends to grab souvenirs. You have quite a few options for dinner but I’ve been wanting to try Kith and Kin, the city’s only Afro-Caribbean restaurant. Chef Kwame Onwuachi’s restaurant has garnered a ton of attention lately. 

After a Sunday Funday full of activities, your friends will be sad to leave DC and you’ll be glad you were able to finally show people just how much there is to love about this city.

What are some of your favorite spots to take your friends when they visit the District? Leave us a comment below or tag us in your adventures using #DCFray or #FrayLife!