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The Glassy’s Healthy Guide to Washington, DC

How to stay sane in our nation's capital.

by Rebecca Willa Davis | 03.03.2018

I’m standing in front of the White House, and something comes over me. It’s the first time I’ve been face-to-face with such a vivid symbol of the Trump Administration, and although I had been in Washington, DC since the abomination-on-America took office, I had somehow avoided getting anywhere near his residence. (The same way I might preternaturally stay away from a café or shop I once frequented with an ex, lest he be there.)

My entire body suddenly tenses, gripped with rage, and I raise my hands and display my middle fingers. No one seems to notice–or maybe it’s just that the guards patrolling the grounds nearby are so accustomed to such displays, and the tourists surrounding me feel the same way (after all, last I checked his approval ratings were hovering around 40%), that there’s no reason to make a scene over it–and after a few moments, I drop my hands and continue on my way. After all, I’ve got a meditation class that I’m late for.

Welcome to DC, where wellness seems inextricably linked with the well-being of our nation. While America’s capital has a reputation for being, well, a bit behind the times when it comes to any major trends–this is the place where racist septuagenarian is setting the legislative agenda–the city has embraced healthier alternatives as a way of staying sane.

You can calm down in a futuristic-chic meditation spot just steps from the White House, you can sweat out your anger at the body-quivering, Megaformer-based SolidCore studios dotting the city, you can remove harmful chemicals from your beauty products at Take Care (since Congress has yet to pass the Personal Care Products Safety Act).

Healthy travel guide to Washington DC

Not pictured: The dreamy macrame wall-hangings at Take Care. (Photo: Take Care)

And not everything in DC is purely reactive; in fact, the healthy fast-casual food trend that’s gone coastal has its roots in the capital. Sweetgreen? DC born. Cava Grill? DC raised. Beefsteak? DC bred (it is a Jose Andres brainchild, after all). And there’s a pack of up-and-comers–from the superfood smoothie spot Jrink to home-of-the-world’s-best-veggie-burger Shouk–that those beyond the Beltway would be lucky to have access to.

Beyond the suits, the blow-outs, the steak-restaurants-for-those-with-expense-accounts, the wellness scene in DC is actually booming. And it might be the only thing keeping those in the capital sane.

The Glassy Blackbook: Washington, DC

Vibe: Clean-cut go-getters who mean business—whether on Capitol Hill or at boot camp. Because everyone’s busy, classes are competitive but concise and healthy grab-and-go spots are the norm.

Pack: Elevated basics—whether it’s Lululemon or Nike, you’ll want to opt for black, gray, or white. And definitely bring a change of clothes (and comfy-but-cool shoes) with you.

Drop-ins: A proliferation of workout-loving DC’ers mixed with a still-limited number of fitness studios means that classes definitely fill up (especially ones before or after work). Plan accordingly.

Walkability: Although blocks can be long, DC is highly walkable. If you’re running late, Lyft runs cheaper than taxi cabs—although traffic can be a nightmare, so your best bet might be the metro.

Runability: As one local insider puts it, “DC is a city of type-A folk who crave intense solo exercise”—meaning running paths are packed at all hours and you won’t actually be alone if you’re getting in some workout alone time. If you’d like to squeeze in some sightseeing, run around the Mall and Tidal Basin; for nature, opt for multi-use trails in the city’s many parks—the standout being Rock Creek Park if you’d like to forget you’re anywhere remotely urban.

Cycleability: Supplementing part—or all—of a commute fairly common in DC at this point. After aall, it was the first city in North America to launch a bike share program—and though people love to complain about Capital Bikeshare, they’re pretty prevalent. A bevy of dockless options have arrived as well, including LimeBike and Jump (which has an electric motor).

Clean eats: It’s all about the grab-and-go option in DC (people have things to do, people to meet, lunch to inhale). Vegan, vegetarian, organic, Paleo…you’ll find fast-casual options for just about every eater. It’s the sit-down meals that prove a bit trickier—this is very much a steak-and-whiskey business dinner town—but if you’re flexible with ordering sides as your mains you’ll be fine.

Supermarket run: Whole Foods dot the city—or look for local chain Yes! Organics (which has been around since 1970). Even better: Most neighborhoods have a farmers’ market for most—if not all-of the year.

Water Situ: There have been questions about lead levels in the city’s water, so if you’re concerned (or are traveling with young children) opt for filtered or bottled.

Toiletry pick-up: It’s worth crossing Rock Creek to get to Georgetown’s Take Care—this airy, ultra-curated shop carries a who’s who of all-natural personal care products, from RMS to Marie Veronique.

Make your base: If you’re on a budget, opt for the Pod DC Hotel—it’s tiny but has deals with both Washington Sports Club and Sculpt DC. If you’re looking for a bit of nightlife (or can’t stomach the thought of sleeping anywhere near the White House), head to the highly Instagrammable Line Hotel in Adams Morgan. For Airbnb, Dupont Circle is a smart central option (while anywhere near 14th Street will be way more fun).

Top souvenirs: Florescent botanical perfume, Shrub District cocktail vinegars, a growler of Craft Kombucha.

If you eat at one place: Shouk is hardly fancy, but it’s home to the best veggie burger we’ve had—ever. It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

If you work out at one place: Cut Seven. It’s the least intimidating intimidating workout you’ll ever try—by the end of your HIIT circuit class all the regulars will be shouting your name and giving you high fives.

If you relax at one place: The futuristic meditation-and-nap studio Recharj, which is just steps away from the Mall, can turn even the most raging activist into a puddle of mellow in just 30 minutes.

Check out the complete Glassy Guide to Washington, DC.

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