I've posted earlier this week about the importance of planning a Non-Federal Moment in your trip to DC, and I can't emphasize that enough. If you approach a trip to DC like a pilgrimage with obligatory sites that must be seen, you will suck the fun out of it for everybody. Break your visit into small chunks, and take some time away from the tourist hordes to recharge.
Fortunately for visitors is one of Washington, DC's great neighborhood institutions, Eastern Market. It's just a short walk from the Capitol, or a short Metro ride from just about anywhere else. The Market, in continuous use since 1873, is set to re-open June 26th after a devastating fire in 2007.
For those who might not be familiar with the Market, let's run through a little background. Once upon a time, in the days or yore, food came from mythical places known as "farms". Stories abound about such places, and hard data is difficult to come by, but it appears as if the "farmers" then sold their food to middlemen with such picturesque titles as "butchers"; "greengrocers"; "bakers"; and, my personal favorite, "fishmongers". Supposedly, folks used to go every day to buy food and even cooked it. Nowadays, we don't believe any of this crap and we understand that food is made in a factory, like ipods, and sold to us in supermarkets.
But if you want to indulge in such historical fantasy, head over to the eponymous Eastern Market Metro stop on the Blue/Orange line. The Market itself has been operating out of temporary structure for the last couple of years following a suspicious fire on April 30, 2007, but will formally re-open on the 26th. Between poking my head in last time I was there, and sneak peaks published here, it looks like the Market will be back, stronger than ever, without loosing it's historical character.
What I particularly like about a visit to the Market is that it's not some historical Williamsburg type recreation, nor is it a trendy new farmers market selling all organic stuff. This is a functioning urban market that's survived in this building since 1873 (and before that, since Thomas Jefferson's presidency), with long term vendors that have been there for decades. Even as urban life in America was under assault in post-War America, Eastern Market has held on while the rest of city's markets were torn down or boarded up. The Market isn't trying to "re-connect" to anything; it's been connected to the neighborhood about it for over a century and still going strong.
If you intend to be in town over a weekend, plan on spending a good chunk of the morning wandering about the flea market set up in the parking lot across 7th Street, finding a table at one of the many coffee shops in the area, or checking out one of the dozen or so shops in the area. If you have small kids, feel free to hang out at one of the local parks. I like Lincoln Park, up North Carolina Avenue where it intersects 11th, or Turtle Park (formally Marion Park) down South Carolina at 6th. It's always amazing to me that the same kid that can't walk another block somehow is magically revived by playground equipment.
The Market is closed Mondays and is already, in fact, closed as they move their stuff back into the original building. However, if you're in town this weekend, don't let that stop you. The outdoors market is open just like normal.
Now, if you'll excuse me; I have to go microwave a burrito for lunch...