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A Capital Convention

Although the AAO has been to Washington, D.C., as recently as 2010 for its annual session, a great deal will be different when convention-goers return May 4-8—and not just in politics. There are new monuments, museums, and exhibits to be seen in addition to the old favorites. In fact, much of America’s historical and cultural heritage is displayed within a short walk of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, making this a must-visit for orthodontists, families, and staff.

Early May promises pleasant weather, with highs in the low 70s and lows in the 50s. Bring a jacket and umbrella in case of rain.

Reagan National Airport is right in the city, with one-way cab or SuperShuttle fares of about $16 to the Convention Center. Fares from the suburban Dulles International Airport run about $60 for a cab or $30 for the shuttle. Transportation from Baltimore-Washington International Airport will cost about $90 for a taxi and $36 for a shuttle.

Washington’s Metrorail has been in the news because of its repair needs, but it may still be a good option for getting around. The line is now connected to the city from Dulles as well as Reagan National. One-time fares vary by distance (from $2 in the downtown area up to $9 from Dulles), but you can buy a rechargeable SmarTrip card at any station or in advance online (smartrip.wmata.com). The card also works on the Metrobus system, including the central-city DC Circulator, which runs at 10-minute intervals for $1 per trip ($7 for a three-day pass).


You could spend your entire trip visiting monuments; among the latest additions are the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the National World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. For transportation, the hop-on, hop-off Old Town Trolley Tours cover all the bases, including a “Monuments by Moonlight” schedule. Guided walking tours are available through Washington Walks, which also does “Memorials by Moonlight.”

The Smithsonian Institute is the nation’s leading collection of museums, all offering free admission as part of their public commission. The newest jewel in the Smithsonian crown is the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September 2016 in a striking building designed by David Adjaye. It features permanent exhibits such as “Slavery and Freedom” and “A Changing America: 1968 and Beyond,” as well as rotating installations such as “More than a Picture: Selections from the Photography Collection.” Free timed-entry tickets are required; though there are no advance tickets remaining for May, some entries are released at 6:30 a.m. daily, and a limited number of walk-up passes are available on weekdays only.

Elsewhere in the Smithsonian realm, the National Museum of American History houses an unmatched collection of Americana; temporary exhibits at the time of the AAO session will include “T Is for Television” and “Religion in Early America.” The American Art Museum will be spotlighting photography by Diane Arbus and fabric art by Do Ho Suh in addition to its comprehensive holdings. Its Renwick Gallery branch will be fully occupied by an exhibit called “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” (about the Nevada desert experience). The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden offers “Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s.” The elegant National Portrait Gallery features an exhibit called “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” along with “Antebellum Portraits by Mathew Brady.” The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery presents “The Prince and the Shah: Royal Portraits from Qajar Iran.” The Freer Gallery of Art, connected to the Sackler by an underground passage, also displays an Asian collection. The relatively new National Museum of the American Indian offers “The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire.” At the National Museum of African Art, temporary exhibits will include Kenyan multimedia artist Jim Chuchu’s “Invocations.” The Anacostia Community Museum, focusing on urban art, highlights “A Right to the City.” The National Postal Museum, in the historic D.C. City Post Office next to Union Station, will be showing “In Her Words: Women’s Duty and Service in World War I.” A mandatory stop for kids, the National Air and Space Museum is about to begin a complete renovation of its well-known National Mall facility, but is currently presenting an exhibit on “America by Air Reimagined.” Its Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport displays larger craft such as the Space Shuttle Discovery and the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay. Also featuring interactive exhibits for the younger set, the National Museum of Natural History is spotlighting “The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World.” The whole family will want to visit the National Zoological Park, one of the world’s great zoos.

National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo © Cvandyke, Dreamstime.com.

Main Hall at the National Museum of Natural History. Photo © Kmiragaya, Dreamstime.com.

For subscription service and information on our Online Archive, visit the JCO booth at the AAO meeting. For information before the meeting, call us at (303) 443-1720, ext. 11.

Boldface names in this article are listed in the Directory with their telephone numbers and street addresses.

Other essential Washington museums are led by the National Gallery of Art, featuring portraits by Paul Cézanne, “Outliers and American Vanguard Art,” and “Images of St. Francis at La Verna” during the convention. The Phillips Collection, the country’s first modern-art collection, is only partially open because of an upgrade to its main building, but is showing “Ten Americans: After Paul Klee” through May 6. The National Archives Museum displays some of America’s founding documents. The Library of Congress, in addition to serving as the national library, presents exhibitions such as “Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I” and “Drawn to Purpose: American Women Illustrators and Cartoonists.” A block away, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the world’s largest collection of the playwright’s memorabilia, offers an exhibit called “Beyond Words: Book Illustrations in the Age of Shakespeare.”

Among the city’s more specialized attractions are the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (weekdays only); the Federal-period Dumbarton House in Georgetown; the Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s luxurious home; the International Spy Museum; the Marian Koshland Science Museum; the Newseum showcase of journalism history; and the U.S. National Arboretum. George Washington’s home at Mount Vernon includes a display of the first president’s dentures.


The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts lists a full schedule of performances in early May. The Royal Shakespeare Company is in residence with Hamlet May 2-6. The Washington National Opera offers Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on May 2, 4, and 7 and Leonard Bernstein’s Candide on May 5 and 9. The National Symphony Orchestra performs works by Richard Strauss and Franz-Josef Haydn under conductor Mark Elder on May 3 and 4. The superb Canadian early-music ensemble Les Violons du Roy will feature violinist Isabelle Faust on May 3. An annual tribute to musician and humanitarian Mary Lou Williams is scheduled for May 5. Brian Wilson presents the final 50th-anniversary concert version of the greatest pop-rock album of all time, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, on May 6. An “Artes de Cuba” festival runs May 8-20.

SONOVA, the Symphony Orchestra of Northern Virginia, has slated W.A. Mozart’s Requiem and a new work by Michael Ream, Three Places in Northern Virginia, for May 6 on the Grounds of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Ani DiFranco performs on May 5 and Panda Bear of Animal Collective on May 7 at the 9:30 Club. Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade appears with Augusto Bracho on May 6 at the Warner Theatre.

On the theater front, The Wiz plays at the historic Ford’s Theatre through May 12. The Shakespeare Theatre Company offers Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Lansburgh Theatre. Vietgone, a Vietnamese-American comedy, will be playing at the Studio Theatre. The new musical Snow Child is on at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia, “a waking dream of Mexico,” runs through May 13 at Tysons II in Tysons, Virginia.

Washington National Cathedral features not only a stunning neo-Gothic edifice but one of the most beautiful locations in the city. The church’s annual Flower Mart, including festival food, artisanal gifts, children’s rides, and plenty of flowers, takes place May 4-5. Another annual cele­bration, the Around the World Embassy Tour, involves open houses with food, art, music, and dance at more than 40 international embassies on May 5.

The defending National League East champion Washington Nationals will play the Philadelphia Phillies at the well-appointed Nationals Park May 4-6. In addition, the Washington Capitals may be involved in NHL playoff action at Capital One Arena.

Summer storm clouds over Washington National Cathedral. Photo © Jon Bilous, Dreamstime.com.

Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. Photo © Theroff97, Dreamstime.com.

Restaurants and Nightlife

The Washington restaurant scene is dominated by the Spanish chef José Andrés (now also an entrepreneurial philanthropist in Puerto Rico) and his cutting-edge Think Food Group. His flagship is minibar with its barmini “cocktail lab,” but you may also want to visit China Chilcano (Peruvian-Asian), Jaleo (tapas), or Zaytinya (Mediterranean). Other Spanish hot spots are La Taberna del Ala­baldero (tapas) and Arroz (Moroccan). Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella, who operates Arroz at the Marriott Marquis, also offers the French Requin on the District Wharf.

Chef Aaron Silverman runs side-by-side Michelin-starred restaurants with different concepts: the farm-to-table Rose’s Luxury (no reservations) and the tasting-menu-driven Pineapple and Pearls. Other American-style favorites include another pair of Michelin-starred neighbors, Kinship and Métier; the rustic-chic Founding Farmers and The Dabney; and the hotel-based Lafayette (Hay-Adams) and Plume (Jefferson). Notable wine lists can be found at Charlie Palmer Steak, a block from the Capitol, and Proof, whose sister restaurants are Estadio (Spanish) and Doi Moi (Thai-Vietnamese). One of the city’s best cocktail bars, 2 Birds, 1 Stone, is downstairs from Doi Moi.

Leading the long list of international destinations is the modern Indian Rasika (two locations). The Filipino Bad Saint was Bon Appétit’s No. 2 new restaurant in the country in 2016 and, with only 24 seats and no reservations, is a difficult table to get; a line starts forming at least two hours ahead of the nightly opening. The city’s top Italian chef is Fabio Trabocchi of Fiola, Fiola Mare, and Del Mar; also try Masseria, Ristorante Tosca, or Acqua al 2. For Mediterranean cuisine, go to Iron Gate (featuring an ambitious cocktail program and a historic building), Tail Up Goat, or Komi. French stars are Mirabelle, Le Diplomate, and Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier. Sushi Taro and Himitsu are the top Japanese spots.

Farther from downtown, two Georgetown hotel restaurants—Blue Duck Tavern at the Hyatt and Seasons at the Four Seasons—will justify the cab fare. In northern Virginia, the Inn at Little Washington is a two-starred culinary institution; Trummer’s on Main in Clifton features a bright, airy dining room with seasonal local food and great wine.

Cocktails are all the rage in D.C., and the best area for barhopping is the U Street Corridor. There you can find Five to One, a music-themed bar adjacent to the 9:30 Club; Service Bar, a beloved hangout for those in the restaurant industry; and Archipelago, a Tiki bar run by Owen Thomson. The city’s most sophisticated cocktail programs, however, may be those at the Columbia Room and the new Morris American Bar. For a different twist, try Espita Mezcaleria, which also serves Oaxacan food, or Maxwell, an eclectic wine bar, both near Morris in the Shaw district. Two distilleries worth visiting are Founding Spirits Tour and Tasting, operated by the Founding Farmers team, and Cotton & Reed, a rum maker doubling as a cocktail bar next to Union Market.

Fig. 1 Summer storm clouds over Washington National Cathedral. Photo © Jon Bilous, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 2 National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photo © Cvandyke, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 3 Main Hall at the National Museum of Natural History. Photo © Kmiragaya, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 4 Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. Photo © Theroff97, Dreamstime.com.


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