Washington, DC

More than just the seat of American power, Washington is also host to international organisations, incredible arts and culture, food, and more. Member Kathleen Mistry takes you through her highlights

Kathleen Mistry

Mistry founded Mistry Advisors, LLC to provide clients bespoke strategic Connector – business development services using Cultural Intelligence in The Emirates, the Gulf, India, Asia, and Europe. She thrives on bringing diverse, multicultural groups together for successful collaboration. Mistry is very proud that all the firms’ clients are dedicated to helping the environment. Mistry advocates on Capitol Hill to Congress for a variety of Expatriate issues to help her fellow Americans living overseas. She is a lifelong supporter of the arts, music, dance, and education.

Describe Washington in three words.
Charming, cultural and international

How long have you lived in the area?
We moved to Washington, DC in 1995. In 2000, our family moved to live the life of expatriates in Paris, France, for the next four years. It was a wonderful expérience. C’est un bon expérience et un bon souvenir! I believe everyone needs to move to a different country to appreciate their own country and their government. We moved back to Washington, DC in 2004 and we are still enjoying Washington today. I must tell you that the native-born Washingtonians are some of the most kind and hospitable people you will ever meet. I hope you will be able to meet some during your visit.

As the Capitol of the United States, it is the hub of our government. It is easy to get caught up in the 24/7 life of politics. I think most of us are news junkies. I am happy to report that the restaurant scene has matured now offering many ethnic restaurants. I attribute this in part to the presence of the embassies, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the International Finance Corporation. Around 180 countries are represented at these various institutions. Weekend excursions are a great way we decompress. In just a couple hours’ drive we can be walking in the mountains in Shenandoah National Park; touring many historic military sights, homes, battle grounds and monuments; or relax at a beach overlooking the bay or the Atlantic Ocean.

The city has so many things to see, what are your highlights?
First, wear your walking shoes and forget the car! We have Metro, buses and taxis for local transportation. Hail a taxi in The District.

Smithsonian Institution

We are fortunate to have the Smithsonian Institution as a base for art, culture, history, science, and research. Through the generous bequest of the British scientist, James Smithson (1765-1829) the Smithsonian was established as a trust in 1846. Today, it has 19 museums, the National Zoo, and nine research centres. With great wisdom, Mr. Smithson decreed in his will that no entrance fees may be charged for any building. This was to ensure that all people had access to all the exhibitions and cultural offerings to enrich their lives.

The John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts

This is our national cultural centre offering dance, theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, performing arts, exhibits, and art education. It is home to both the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. Throughout the year, there are a variety of offerings for everyone’s taste. You are welcome to enjoy a coffee or meal before your performance or simply take a tour of the complex. Be sure and enjoy the view of the Potomac River from the Terrace. Our newest building is the REACH building. This is a multipurpose centre for inclusion for all with studios, galleries, performance spaces, education, art exhibits, lecture halls, and installations.

The US Capitol and Visitor Center, Library of Congress, the National Mall and Monuments, and Private Museums

A tour of the Capitol is a very good introduction to our government. The building is beautiful and the one-hour tour worthwhile. It is better to buy your tickets online ahead of time. But you can go in the morning and try to have a tour the same day.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. The Library is the research arm of the US Congress and home of the US Copyright Office. Tours are smaller and very interesting.

The National Mall stretches over two miles from the Lincoln Memorial on the west end to the US Capitol on the east end. It is a great place for a stroll.

We have more than 160 monuments and memorials. The Washington Monument, Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials are very historic for our young country.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Geographic Museum, Union Station for Metro and AMTRAK railroad which was saved from destruction and restored by the First Lady Jackie Kennedy, US National Arboretum with the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, The Phillips Collection (modern art), Folger Shakespeare Library and the Martin Luther King Monument are very interesting.

A stroll through the charming Georgetown section of Washington is always enjoyable. There are shops and restaurants for lunch or dinner

One of my favorite places to visit after I have walked to the White House and taken photos is St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1,525 H Street (at 16th) NW near Lafayette Square. It is so small and charming. The first service was held in 1816. It is lovingly referred to as ‘The Church of the Presidents’ (see plaque outside). Most every president has worshipped there. When a president retires from office a church member needlepoints his name on a kneeling cushion. In 1902, the formal state funeral of British Ambassador Lord Pauncefote was held at St. John’s.

After visiting St. John’s, it is worth your time to walk the few blocks to see the country of Oman, Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center at 1,100 16th Street, NW. The Washington National Cathedral is a landmark for worship. It is a beautiful cathedral definitely worth a visit. It is a house of prayer for all people founded by our leaders. It is the venue for national level services for great celebrations, and Presidential and other leaders’ funerals. It is an Episcopal church chartered in 1893. All year long, there are services, concerts, and talks to engage all of Washington.

The Middle East Institute – MEI Art Gallery at 1763 N Street, NW. The gallery pays tribute to the experiences and reflections of artists from the Middle East.

The International Spy Museum is located near our small Chinatown. The museum will give you a glimpse into the world of espionage, spies, and intelligence. Upon entry you will be issued your ‘cover identity’. You can test your spy skills throughout your tour of the museum. See the various tools and disguises used historically to present day. It is a great visit!

The Georgetown Waterfront has an assortment of restaurants and tour boat excursions. After a long morning of the museums, enjoy a peaceful lunch overlooking the Potomac River and then take a ride on one of the boats. A stroll through the charming Georgetown section of Washington is always enjoyable. There are shops and restaurants for lunch or dinner.

What are the must-sees for first time visitors
I would by a multiday pass for the On and Off Bus tours. Ride the whole tour and get a feel for the city. Then go ride again and depart at stops and see only the sights that most interest you.

What is the best time of year to visit?
Late March to mid-April is a must see time for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. There is a ‘buzz’ in the city. We commemorate the 1912 gift from Tokyo, Japan of 3,000 cherry trees to the City of Washington. Beginning in late April, May, and early June is a good time to visit our city. There will be smaller crowds before mid-June. Congress will adjourn by the end of June. The schools will close for the summer and the tourist crowds will increase until the beginning of September. August can resemble Summer in Mumbai being hot and humid. Our Autumn season is lovely weather accompanied by the changing of the colours of the leaves on the trees. By the middle of September, the city will once again have its ‘buzz’. Congress will be back in session, offices will be busy, schools will be in session, concerts, dance, and theatre performances will resume. During the Christmas season, there are many decorations, receptions, concerts, performances and other traditions to enjoy. It can be cold and/or rainy until March or April. Honestly, with Climate Change, I hesitate to give any guidance for the weather.