Hometown Tourist, Ch 9: What do you do during a shutdown?

This weekend my best friend came to visit with a request to do “touristy stuff.” Generally that would not be too hard given that it’s Washington DC, right?

But as anyone following the news knows, her request proved challenging given that we are in the middle of a government shutdown. Aside from a cursory drive around the monuments so she could “see” things from the car that plan was dead in the water. If you are curious, this story on Mashable is a very accurate depiction of what things look like. It’s actually really depressing and i am deeply concerned about the lasting negative impact this will have on our local economy. But that is someone else’s blog fodder, not mine.

Shutdown be damned, when your best friend wants to do something touristy improvise, adapt and overcome, as Mr. Os would say. A quick brainstorm/cocktail later, I had it all planned out right there on the cocktail napkin.

With Halloween coming the obvious fun spot to check out would be the Exorcist steps. If you’ve seen the movie, the steps are a famous part of the movie related to the character Karras. Here is what they look like:

Ooo! The exorcist stairs are not so scary in the day without the Hollywood staging.
Ooo! The exorcist stairs are not so scary in the day without the Hollywood staging.

Nothing spectacular, sure, but see the movie first and it’s still kinda cool. And i was surprised how many tourists were stopping by—maybe my Exorcist steps wasn’t as original as I’d first thought, but they were fun.

After laboring up those stairs we worked up a sweat and the second part of my plan sprang into action. Time for cupcakes! Yes, this craze is a bit “done” and in DC (especially around G’town) it’s tough to avoid a cupcake shop. Then again, why would you? Even the most lame shop is pretty great because, well, it’s cupcakes! That said, there are four shops in Georgetown alone, two with national TV shows. So again my creativity was, well, the equivalent of low-hanging fruit. Very sweet, fun to eat low-hanging fruit.

We bagged Georgetown Cupcakes on principle. Well principles. For one, even though the company is on TLC, and I’m not famous, i deserve to be treated with courtesy. The few times i have been there the staff is condescending. Second, the line is ridiculously long, and there is too much to do to spend an hour in line for cupcakes. Which brings me to three, Georgetown cupcakes aren’t that good. GASP! I said it. Why anyone waits in a line that goes around the block is beyond me. Especially since some of the best cupcakes in the city can be found within blocks of Georgetown Cupcake—in fact, in more centrally located places around Georgetown.

So, we bypassed that establishment for a crowd pleaser: Sprinkles. I’ve taken a young girl here on my first (and last) DC Cupcake taste test. That much sugar in a little girl is not a good idea, and her mother probably got a medal for it at the end of the day. Or a badge, seeing as she was visiting for some girl scout jamboree. Either way, after tasting almost every cupcake DC had to offer, and shimmering with the energy a pound of icing will provide, she swore these were the best of the bunch. At the time, I favored a different (perhaps more refined) cupcakery. But that said, the staff was unbelievably generous with her. Imagine being 11, running into a store and declaring that you watch them on TV and just *LOVE* them. How the person behind the register responds can make or break your day.

Just a selection of the delicious cupcakes you'll find at Sprinkles on M Street in Georgetown
Just a selection of the delicious cupcakes you’ll find at Sprinkles on M Street in Georgetown

The cashier didn’t miss a beat and graciously replied, “well aren’t we lucky! How about some cool stickers with your cupcake as a thank you?” Maybe it seems like a small gesture, but it made her day. This time we sampled a caramel apple and red velvet cupcake.

Also, being a dog owner, i got a huge kick out of the fact that they make doggie cupcakes. My husky—at 17 and a half, could have qualified. But his palate tends to the savory side. The dachshund is an electric pig with no “off” switch and sure as heck doesn’t need anything additional to whatever else she finds to eat!

This made me laugh: cupcakes for dogs
This made me laugh: cupcakes for dogs

Because we were aiming for a tasting, but not GLUTTONY or sugar coma, we made Baked & Wired our final stop. These three (with one honorary mention to Hello Cupcake which is actually in DuPont Circle—and therefore too far for this trip) are top of the heap, in my humble opinion. Baked & Wired remains my personal favorite. Until recently, it was unknown to outsiders and had a terrific low-key vibe.This time it was a lot more touristy, but when you make a cupcake that good, it’s just a matter of time before word gets out. I was actually shocked to find a line out the door.

Decisions, decisions at Baked & Wired on Thomas Jefferson Street in Georgetown
Decisions, decisions at Baked & Wired on Thomas Jefferson Street in Georgetown

We got a red velvet (for comparison, duh) and a Tessita here.

So, how did they rate?

  • Baked & Wired’s Red Velvet. As i mentioned, i’m a big fan of Baked & Wired so i was devastated that the cupcake was slightly on the dry side. After a second bite i found the frosting really sweet, but almost artificially sweet. It didn’t have that nice cream cheese taste. Grade: B-
  • Baked & Wired’s Tessita. My best friend dubbed this, “a shot of sugar.” This so called shot of sugar was a vanilla cake with a dulce de leche center and hazelnut frosting. It was delicious but just too much. Mr. Os was very disappointed that we didn’t get the strawberry cupcake—his personal “go to.” He agreed the Tessita, though good, was best for those with an extreme sweet tooth. Grade: B
  • Sprinkles’ Red Velvet. The cake of this cupcake was nice and light, the frosting was the right amount and you got a little bit of the cream cheese taste in the frosting. Again, Mr. Os chimed in. Not a fan of Red Velvet cupcakes in general, he said this was “hands down” the best version of Red Velvet cupcake to ever touch his taste buds. Grade: A+
  • Sprinkles’ Caramel Apple. We wanted to love this one but it just missed the mark. The cake had a lot of cinnamon but not enough apple. That meant the apple flavor was overwhelmed by cinnamon and then both were lost with the frosting. Speaking of, the frosting was too sweet in contrast to the cake. It just didn’t come together the way we wanted. Grade: C

I selected the above based on my friend’s criteria (touristy). It helps that we’ve been friends for 15 plus years so i have a good idea about what she likes and doesn’t like.

While there are some excellent museums open (Spy Museum and Newseum to mention a few favorites, but unlike public museums, these cost money), the majority of things are closed and finding things to do requires some creativity and flexibility.

In all seriousness, if you have a trip planned to Washington DC right now, i would recommend rescheduling it. There are still plenty of things to do, but they aren’t the things you want to see if you’ve spent time traveling here or even more frustrating, paid money to get here. And you can always contact me if you want some ideas of what a hometown tourist does to entertain guests and significant others during downtime.

Author: Judi Kennedy

Wanderlust. A professional aunt, fitness enthusiast, dog owner and avid reader the rest of the time.

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