THE REVIVAL: High crime, buttoned-up Beltway vibe, sweltering summers, a coked-out mayor, taxation without representation, and eight years of an unpopular administration aren't great for a city's image, but don't let all that stuff fool you. D.C. has been busily working for change lately.
After Marion Barry made a mess of the mayor's office, Congress exercised its right to rule and took charge in 1995. When the D.C. regained control, in 2001, the money started pouring in, jump-starting a civic revival overdue since the race riots of 1968. Run-down neighborhoods northwest's Adams Morgan, U Street, and Chinatown began attracting young entrepreneurs. "D.C. has seen an influx of independent business owners," says Warren Brown, a lawyer turned baker who opened hugely popular CakeLove on U Street in 2002. "Before that, it was like Where's the creativity?'" In the Capitol Riverfront 'hood, along the Anacostia River, the Nationals' new baseball stadium debuted this spring as the first LEED-certified ballpark in the country. And this summer, D.C. launched the country's first bike-share program, with a fleet of 100 four-speed cruisers; $40 gets you a year of access all over town.
THE LIFE: Just ask young, ultrafit D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty. The three-mile run along the National Mall, from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial, is, um, monumental. Off-road, 1,754-acre Rock Creek Park offers 40 miles of urban trails, or ride or run the C&O Canal towpath in Georgetown. Upstream, Great Falls offers Class V rapids. On U Street, chill with some vino at Cork, then catch live jazz at Bohemian Caverns.
THE WORD ON THE STREET: D.C.
"Don't think D.C. is all about politics; it's full of diversity, and practically any adventure you want is within a three-hour radius of the city."