Save, Spring, Splurge: The Wharf, Washington, DC

by  Laura Powell | Updated on May 24, 2019
Outdoor concert
Outdoor concert / The Wharf

Washington, DC has a new destination, and it has nothing to do with politics. In fact, even though the halls of power (and the Smithsonian) are very nearby, The Wharf faces the Potomac River. This lets everyone enjoy an alternative view of the city.

The first phase of the $2.5 billion dollar development opened in the fall of 2017. When the whole thing is finished in 2021, one mile of waterfront will be buoyed by hotels, stores, cultural spaces, marinas, piers, and waterfront parks. And did we mention restaurants? There will be dozens of them.

While there’s more to come, The Wharf already has options by the boatload. Depending on your budget, you can do it cheap, do it luxury, or do it anywhere in between.


Stay at Hyatt House. Designed for extended stay travelers (although short-termers are welcome, too), many of the rooms have full kitchens. You could cook breakfast in your room, but don’t bother. The ample free breakfast includes made-to-order omelets, fruit, cereals, bacon, potatoes and just about any other morning munchie you may desire. Rates in fall and winter can fall as low as $120 per night on weekends, but look for average rates around $160. Spring and summer rates easily top $200 per night.

From here, take the free Wharf Jitney from Recreation Pier over to East Potomac Park, where you’ll find free and affordable activities. Shag some golf balls, or play on one of the courses (there are three of them, all with modest green fees from $12 to $34; equipment rentals are available), get in a tennis match (court rentals from $10 per hour), or go for a run or a hike.

At lunchtime, snack in your room or grab a salad or a sandwich at Taylor Gourmet or stop by the nearby Shake Shack (expect a line at the latter, depending on when you arrive).

In the afternoon, take the free shuttle bus to The National Mall and museum-hop. All the Smithsonians, plus the National Gallery of Art, are free, so you’re welcome to come and go as you please. For dinner, Kirwan’s Irish Pub offers refined pub grub and live music.


Stay at Canopy by Hilton, one of Hilton’s new lifestyle brands. You’ll find rooms around $200 per night in fall and winter, and around $300 to $350 in spring and summer. Then, have breakfast at Pearl Street Warehouse. The music venue offers a reasonably-priced and hearty breakfast which draws mostly locals. Then, do a little shopping. Politics & Prose is the city’s favorite locally-owned bookstore. Among the other shops worth discovering Anchor, The Wharf’s “general store” and Harper Macaw, purveyor of responsibly-sourced chocolates. Take a class at Yoga Factory, then grab a bite at Cantina Bambina, serving island-inspired bites and cocktails, or Lupo Marino if you're in the mood for pizza or Italian street foods.


Book a night or two at the InterContinental. Rooms in fall and winter go for about $200 to $270 per night, while spring and summer stays are more like $277 to $400.

Spoil yourself with breakfast at Kith/Kin, a new restaurant opened by Kwame Onwuachi of Top Chef. Next, head over to Recreation Pier and rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board. Then, head over to Georgetown via the new high-tech water taxi and visit one of that neighborhood’s many day spas. Afterwards, head back to The Wharf on the water taxi and grab dinner at Mike Isabella’s (also from Top Chef) Requin or  Del Mar de Fabio Trabocchi, a Spanish-inspired seafood restaurant. (Note that this restaurant has a business casual dress code.) After your meal, take in a show at the 6,000-seat The Anthem, which hosts acts ranging from Foo Fighters to Lorde to St. Vincent.

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