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D.C. Like a Local

To get a sense for D.C. as the locals know it, try these experiences.

Catch a Flick

Summers in D.C. add a refreshing twist to the typical dinner-and-a-movie date night. In July and August locals head to several outdoor venues to see classic films alfresco. The Mall's Screen on the Green is the most popular. But the MLK Memorial also hosts films, and NoMa's Summer Screen, just north of Union Station, pulls an ever-growing audience as well.

Dine on Ethiopian Food

The District's many Ethiopian expats have introduced the community to their unique African cooking. The best restaurants, such as Etete, have long been clustered in the U Street neighborhood, but Ethiopic, a relative newcomer in the Atlas District, is rewriting those rules. Meat and vegetarian dishes are ladled onto a large round of spongy injera bread, and diners eat with their hands, ripping off pieces of bread to scoop up the delectable stews. Using your hands instead of utensils adds to the sensual appeal of this cuisine.

Go for a Bike Ride

Your typical Mall-and-monuments tourist may not know that D.C. is home to several great bike trails—and the city's bike share program (www.capitalbikeshare.com), introduced in 2010, makes it easier than ever for visitors to take advantage. The Capitol Crescent Trail and Rock Creek Trail are popular routes between D.C. and Maryland. For more ambitious cyclists, the Custis Trail in Arlington links D.C. to the 45-mile Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) trail in Virginia, while the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) towpath runs for nearly 185 miles between D.C. and western Maryland. From there, the most hardcore peddlers can catch the Great Allegheny Passage trail, which extends another 150 traffic-free miles to Pittsburgh. On a warm, sunny day, expect to find the local paths bustling with cyclists, rollerbladers, and strollers.

Hang Out on U Street

You won't find many tourists in the U Street neighborhood, and many locals have only recently discovered the area. During the day, browse through the unique boutiques that line 14th and U streets NW or read the Washington CityPaper at one of the many cafés. In the evening, select from trendy or ethnic restaurants, post up at a local bar like Dodge City, a newish hipster hangout, or catch a popular indie band at the 9:30 Club or some jazz at Bohemian Caverns.

Shop at an Outdoor Market

Instead of sleeping in on a Saturday morning, grab your trusty canvas bag and a wad of cash and head to one of D.C.'s outdoor markets. The best-known venue, Eastern Market on Capitol Hill, is gorgeous, and the place to buy a quick meal or picnic ingredients and mingle with residents. On weekends there are craft, flea, and produce markets. The Dupont Circle farmers' market and Georgetown flea market—both year-round venues—are also popular, while the Atlas District's Union Market attracts huge crowds eager to sample oysters, craft beers, and other local delicacies. Lastly, the Maine Avenue Fish Market in Southwest is a must-visit for seafood lovers. Get there early to see the fishermen unload their catch.

Updated: 2014-09-23

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