Wayne Rooney may have bid farewell to the D.C. United faithful for the final time on Sunday after his club lost hold of homefield advantage in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs with a goalless draw against FC Cincinnati. Whether or not he gets one more outing at Audi Field, the England great will be leaving plenty behind when he returns home.
Everyone knows Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital. But don’t be fooled into thinking the city begins and ends with what you may have seen on your middle school field trip.
Yes, government buildings, monuments and museums are key attractions for many of the visitors who come to Washington each year. But the District, as locals call it, is so much more than that, a hub of culture, cuisine, sights, sounds and soccer.
In other words, Washington should definitely be high on your list for potential vacation or long weekend destinations, hopefully, when D.C. United or the US national team are playing at Audi Field. And if you do decide to visit, here’s how to make sure your stay goes well beyond the reaches of the typical D.C. bus tour.
Where to Eat/Drink
As an international capital and one of America’s most cosmopolitan cities, D.C. has won plenty of acclaim for its diverse dining culture and nightlife.
- THE JOSE ANDRES FACTOR: Celebrity chef Jose Andres makes his home in D.C., and even has inspired much of the concession fare at Audi Field. A visitor could stick to his downtown restaurants alone (America Eats, Minibar, Jaleo, Oyamel Cocina, China Chilcano) and take a virtual culinary tour across a handful of countries and continents.
- LOCAL INSTITUTIONS: Even though much of D.C.’s dining culture has developed over the last few decades, there are some must-visit longtime local favorites. Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market has sold visitors a smorgasbord of dining options, fresh food, meat and produce, not to mention art, since the late 1800s. The Market Lunch is famous for its blueberry buckwheat pancakes and its crab cakes that have satisfied customers since 1978. Or you can order a BBQ sandwich from Canales Delicatessen while picking up some Argentine sausage or bratwurst to go.
- NEAR AUDI FIELD: About a mile northwest of the stadium, the District Wharf is one of D.C.’s newest, toniest hotspots. There’s Spanish, Mediterranean, Seafood, Asian, Irish, Caribbean, Coastal and Italian establishments to choose from. For a nightcap with a view, follow your meal with a drink at 12 Stories Bar.
- DRINKS AND ENTERTAINMENT: D.C. nightlife is more about the street crawl than one particular destination. There’s 18th Street in Adams Morgan, Connecticut Avenue around Dupont Circle, U Street in Cardozo and H Street in, well, the H Street Corridor. Cardozo is your best bet for live music. The 9:30 Club, Lincoln Theater, Black Cat, DC 9, U Street Music Hall Velvet Lounge are all within a few blocks.
- FOURTH MEAL: Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, but if you want to live like the locals, the half-smokes are best served sometime to you and dozens of other Friday or Saturday night revelers. If you’re staying out in Northern Virginia, any of the four Bob and Edith’s locations are another great, local 24-hour spot for breakfast before bed.
If you like carrying quarters and searching for parking, feel free to rent a car. But with DC’s small geographic footprint, other options are strongly suggested and often more convenient.
- BY RAIL: Washington Metrorail provides visitors the most straightforward way to get between the vast majority of the city’s tourist attractions roughly 16 hours a day. That includes Audi Field, which is a 15-minute walk from the Waterfront and Navy Yard-Ballpark stops on the green line.
- BY BUS: The SmartTrip you need for the Metrorail is also accepted on Metrobus and nearly a dozen other connecting bus and transit services. Among those connecting services, the D.C. Circulator’s Eastern Market-L’Enfant Plaza route drops off closest to Audi Field at M Street and Delaware Ave and runs extended hours on match-nights.
- BY BIKE: If you’re the active type, the Capital Bikeshare has more than 500 stations and 4,300 bikes in the D.C. region, including a dock directly across Potomac Ave. from Audi Field. If your ride can be completed in under 30 minutes -- think 4 miles or fewer -- a one-way trip is only $2. Audi Field also has a complimentary bike valet if you end up bringing your own.
- RIDESHARES: Uber, Lyft and an assortment of local taxi companies operate in the D.C. area. If you’re taking one to the stadium, they’ll typically drop you on Potomac Avenue. It might be a challenge to book a return ride, however.
- FROM THE AIRPORT: Metrorail blue and yellow lines run to Reagan National. The silver line will eventually extend to Dulles International, but, for now, you’ll need to take a Metrobus express service. The MARC Commuter Rail Penn Line from Union Station will get you to Baltimore-Washington International.
Where to Watch Soccer
Year after year, D.C. is among the leaders in TV ratings for soccer telecasts and, as such, the city has an embarrassment of soccer bar riches.
- FOR THE HISTORIAN: Make the short pilgrimage across the Potomac River to Summer’s Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. Unassuming from the outside, on the inside you’ll find one of the nation’s original soccer bars. Long before the world’s game gained a serious foothold on American shores, Summer’s was the spot for expatriates to catch their home teams in Europe or South America on a satellite or closed-circuit feed., Oh, and some players and coaches in the local soccer community are known to hang at Ireland’s Four Courts across the street.
- DOWNTOWN STAPLES: Lucky Bar in DuPont Circle, and Fado’s in Gallery Place are among the more old-school venerated venues.
- SPECIAL VIEWING: Biergarten Haus in the H Street Corridor offers a spacious outdoor viewing experience in good weather. One of D.C.’s newer additions, dock FC is a soccer-themed haunt in Ivy City built on the former Hecht warehouse loading dock.
- GAMES BEFORE THE GAME: Near Audi Field, Circa on M Street SE has held official club watch parties. Neighbors Big Stick and Willie’s are also walkable sports bars and club partners.
- ONE FINAL TIP: D.C. establishments are more friendly than most to the requests of soccer viewers. So just because you’re not in a “soccer bar,” don’t hesitate to ask staff if they can turn the TV to the game of your choosing.
Where to Play Soccer
Admittedly, D.C. is a city of professionals who often have overbooked and over-organized calendars, which can contribute to an unusually regimented pickup soccer culture.
- USE THE WEB: The social networking site Meetup reveals a couple of dozen D.C.-area groups devoted to pick-up soccer, including 10 with at least 500 members. The largest, Washington, DC Pickup Soccer, features plenty of meetings scheduled nearly every weekend at various spots.
- OTHER OPTIONS: D.C. United has partnered with the USSF in recent years to build mini-pitches at the Petworth Recreation Center, and the SEED School of Washington, just across the Anacostia River from the club’s old RFK Stadium Home. The city also recently constructed three new, 11-v-11 turf fields in what used to be RFK parking lots. Elsewhere, while tourists frequent the national mall for its vendors and museums, locals often utilize it as their playground for any variety of social leagues and pickup games.
- LUNCHTIME SPECIAL: For a uniquely D.C. pickup experience on a weekday, try Long Bridge Park on the shores of the Potomac River in Arlington, around lunchtime, when staffers from the Pentagon and other nearby office buildings sometimes gather to contest The Beautiful game.
The Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol and the White House are all hard to miss. But there’s plenty of memorable attractions most out-of-towners miss when they pay a visit.
- PANORAMIC VIEWS: In Upper Northwest, the Washington National Cathedral stands as the highest structure in the city. Guided tours include sweeping views of D.C. from three-fourths of the way up the gothic structure at the Pilgrim Observation Gallery.
- HIDDEN OASIS: In the middle of the Potomac River, between Georgetown and the Rosslyn commercial district of Arlington, sits Theodore Roosevelt Island, a wooded enclave of nature trails and waterfront views. The memorial plaza at its center is an ideal picnic spot.
- GET ACTIVE: Escape the hustle and bustle at Rock Creek Park, which features over 32 miles of hiking trails and paths spread across more than 1,750 acres. By Bike, take in the D.C. views from across the river on the Mt. Vernon Trail, or head to nearby Bethesda and Silver Spring, Maryland, on the Capital Crescent Trail.
- HIT THE LINKS: Washington has three public golf courses. The most unique is East Potomac Park Golf Course, where you can play nine- or 18-hole courses amid the city’s famous Cherry Blossom trees.
- PLANE SPOTTING: Set up camp at Haines Point in D.C. or Gravelly Point in Arlington, and spend a few hours on a blanket watching the planes take off and land from Reagan National Airport. Bring some earplugs to Gravelly Point though; the jets can roar right above your head.
And finally: Whether you want to revel in being in the heart of the U.S. government, feast on the array of museums or simply absorb the city's rich soccer culture, we hope this guide has helped you to choose well!