McLean Robbins

Correspondent

  • Washington, D.C., USA

McLean Robbins is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Washington, D.C. The freelance luxury lifestyle writer specializes in travel, hotels, spas, weddings and social media for national magazines and websites. Her work has appeared in publications including Robb Report, AOL, The Washington Post, The Washingtonian, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, DailyCandy and many more. She is also an experienced digital content and SEO strategist, working with businesses across the country to help develop engaging Web content. Robbins holds an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and a master’s degree from Georgetown University.

  • On February 27, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best tours of Washington D.C.?

    We're of the opinion that the best way to see Washington, D.C. is with a local, not with a tour company. The incredibly walkable city is easy to navigate and can best be shown by someone who knows it well. But if you're really hoping for a tour guide, here are a few of our suggestions: 

    Contact your state representative
    Schedule a Capitol tour through your representative's office. They're happy to appoint a staffer to take you through the building. Bonus points if you can get a dome tour, or a special White House tour. The garden tours are our favorite. 

    Bike the Sites
    Not only is biking great exercise but it's a great way to see the sites in a fairly expedient manner. Take a ride through the monuments or around the Hill. We'd suggest an evening or sunrise tour for a great photo opps. 

    Gray Line
    This national tour company offers a number of ways to see DC by bus. It's a very simple way to see many sites in a short period of time and is a relatively affordable method as well. 

    DC By Foot
    If you can't find a local to give you a tour, this is your next best thing. Experienced guides have a number of options for every type of interest -- from history buffs to foodies. 

    DC Metro Food Tours
    What better way to experience Washington than with your stomach? Take a tour of the city's best restuarants with these innovative tours. 

  • On February 27, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best wine bars in Washington D.C.?

    Oneophiles will find much to love about the wine bars in Washington, D.C. -- from local vintages to specialty shops stocking the best the world over, the D.C. area has become a haven for wine. Here are a few of our favorite wine bars in Washington, D.C.: 

    Proof
    Although technically a restaurant, the bar at this Penn Quarter hotspot offers one of the city's best and most comprehensive wine lists. Pair your selection with one of Executive Chef Haidar Karoum's spectacular modern American dishes.

    Cork
    Another bar and restaurant hybrid, this shop has pawned the popular Cork Market as well, which stocks wines and other assorted food and home staples. Test small plates with a wide selection of reds and whites in this Logan Circle destination.

    Veritas
    Intimate and perfect for date nights, this tiny Dupont Circle bar is one of our favorites to share a glass of our favorite Chianti and a cheese plate. 

    Slate
    New to Glover Park, this is the Georgetown area's first wine bar. Younger clientele frequent the bar regularly, so the list is more approachable and reasonably priced than many in the city.

    Screwtop
    Just outside of Washington, D.C. proper in Arilngton's Clarendon neighborhood, this wine bar and wine shop offers a wide variety of interesting reds and whites with a simple menu that includes items like grilled cheese.  
  • On February 27, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What’s happening this weekend in Washington D.C.?

    There is always something happening in Washington, D.C. for weekend visitors and locals alike. But for the first weekend in March, 2013, we'd suggest the following: 

    Eat at Daikaya. Chinatown's newest ramen spot has opened after many delays, and it's already drawing a buzz. 

    Wolfgang Laib at the Phillips Collection. Check out this popular art gallery's latest exhibit. The new "wax room" will be part of the permanent collection. 

    See "Metamorpheses" at Arena Stage. This popular local theater's new show is a Tony award winning proudction. 

    Check out the DC Millitia Car Show. Rev your engine with the hottest four wheels in town, appearing for three days only at the DC Armory. 
  • On February 25, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best day trips near Washington D.C.?

    The greater Washington, D.C. area offers a wealth of opportunity for day trippers. From Virginia to Maryland and beyond, many wonderful attractions are within an easy day's drive. Here are a few of our favorites: 

    Mount Vernon
    The home of our first president is just a 15-minute drive from Washington, D.C. and a great time of year to visit is during the holiday season, when the historic home opens for evening candlelit tours. The onsite distillery is also quite popular. 

    Virginia Wineries
    There are several dozen wineries within an hour's drive of the city. Most are located down Route 66 and offer low-cost tastings on weekends. Many also allow you to bring your own picnic or a furry friend or two, making this an ideal escape when the weather is nice.

    Skyline Drive
    Just over an hour outside Washignton, Skyline drive is one of the area's most scenic escapes. The parkway winds along the Blue Ridge Mountains, which begin in Virginia. Hike, horseback ride, camp or simply take a drive and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. If you'd like to extend your stay, you can drive almost all the way to nearby Charlottesville from the park. Here, you can enjoy a tour of University of Virginia, a number of wineries and James Madison's Montpelier, to name a few. 

    Annapolis
    This historic Maryland capital is just a 45-minute drive from Washington, D.C. and is quite popular as a local escape. Take a boat ride on the harbor, walk up Main Street and enjoy quaint shops and restaurants, or tour the United States Naval Academy. 
  • On February 25, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What’s new in Washington D.C.?

    There is always something new to explore in Washington, D.C., including a wealth of new museum exhibits, new shows to attend, or a politcal meeting or rally to join for a cause. Of course, many Washingtonians are "new" themselves -- the city is more transient than many others in the United States due to the cyclical nature of its inhabitants, many of whom come and go at each electoral cycle. Here are a few of our favorite "new" things to visit: 

    Union Market
    The city's newest fresh food market, this weekday and weekend warehouse extravaganza brings many of the city's finest chefs and food purveyors together in one large space. Enjoy artisinal meats, fresh produce, an on-site wine shop and spice market, or food-truck style vendors. 

    The MLK Jr. Memorial
    The city's newest memorial opened just a few months ago. Read exerpts from the "I Have A Dream" speech inscribed on the sides or just marvel at the visage of the famed civil rights leader. 

    New Lawmakers
    President Obama may have enjoyed a second term re-election, but many of Washignton's most powerful faces are new. Congressmen and senators galore began their first terms in early 2013, and many of these "freshman" lawmakers are already making names on the hill. 
  • On February 25, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What is nightlife like in Washington D.C.?

    In recent years, Washington's nightlife has become more and more ecclectic, giving party-seeking Washingtonians even more reason to venture from their local watering holes and explore the city after dark. Like many cities, nightlife in Washignton, D.C. varies by neighborhood, with each area having a general "vibe" or type of establishment. While these statements aren't always 100% accurate, they'll give a good overview of what city neighborhood might best suit your desires:

    Downtown
    Ideal for a post-work happy hour, this broad swatch of D.C. proper is known for having excellent hotel bars and top-notch restaurants.

    Dupont Circle
    Ideal for dining out and a popular location for post work happy hours, Dupont Circle is best as a 20-something party destination by evening.

    Georgetown
    Catering to the city’s preppy set by night, this popular evening destination has a number of casual bars and the Washington Harbour waterfront, which is a popular venue on warm summer nights for outdoor bar hopping.

    Capitol Hill
    This vibrant area has become even more popular since the Washington Nationals began playing and the 8th Street/Barracks Row area was revitalized. Popular for post-work happy hour, this destination also caters to well-heeled city dwellers looking for post dinner fun.

    H Street
    One of the city’s most up-and-coming areas, H Street or the “Atlas District’ offers a wide variety of eclectic bars and music venues.

    Logan Circle
    Upscale and trendy, some of the city’s best bars and restaurants line this strip along 14th Street. What was once “hipster” is now “urban chic.”

    U Street
    Similar to Logan Circle with a bit more edge, a number of popular dance venues line this strip between 14th and U and 16th and U.
  • On February 19, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best places to see a play in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. is a town known for culture, and its vibrant theater scene is just one of the city's many draws. The most famous location for theater is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Known for everything from theater to opera, the old fashioned theater house has everything from well-known Broadway shows to free local performances through Millenium Stage. 

    Other venues in the city include National Theatre (which recently ran a run fo Les Miserables) and the Warner Theater, a 1920's movie plalace turned theater. History buffs will also love Ford's Theater, where Lincoln was shot, which produces family-friendly plays and events. Atlas Performing Arts Center on H Street is the city's go-to for indie appearances, and Logan Circle's Studio Theater is popular for smaller shows as well. 
  • On February 18, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best historic hotels in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. offers a number of hotels with a rich history. Many of the best properties in the city boast rich and storied pasts, but here are a few of our favorites:

    The Hay-Adams
    The closest hotel to the White House is also one of its most historic. Many rooms and suites overlook the President’s residence, and a popular event space, The Top of The Hay, offers some of the best views in the city. If you’d like to hear the latest political gossip, just head downstairs – the hotel’s basement bar, Off the Record, is a popular watering hole for the city’s movers and shakers.

    The St. Regis
    The only hotel in Washington where every president is rumored to have slept, this spectacular property is just minutes from the White House and Washington’s influential lobbying firms on K Street. Boasting an Alain Ducasse restaurant, Adour, and the grand Astor Ballroom (a popular wedding location), this hotel’s regal lobby looks like it was taken straight from a history book.

    The Jefferson
    Once apartment buildings to the city’s elite, the 99-room boutique hotel underwent a full renovation several years ago to bring this historic hotel building up to its present day splendor. Today, guests dine at Plume, one of the city’s finest French restaurants, and enjoy décor inspired by the hotel’s namesake, Thomas Jefferson, and his time in Paris.

    The Willard InterContinental
    Conveniently located downtown near many offices, the historic Willard InterContinental boasts that the term “lobbying” was coined right there at the hotel.

    The Fairfax on Embassy Row
    During the Kennedy administration, Jackie and John flocked to the dining room at this Dupont Circle hotel to enjoy sole meuniere and a classic cocktail at The Jockey Club. Now, guests still return for the hotel’s central location in one of the city’s most vibrant leisure and business areas. 
  • On February 18, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best hotels in Washington D.C.?

    Washington, D.C. is a city for hotel lovers. Not only is Washington home to several of the nation’s largest hotel brands (Marriott, Hilton and Choice are all headquartered in the D.C. area) but it is also a location for many of the country’s most scenic and luxurious properties. From the historic to the boutique, the high-end to the high-style, Washington’s hotel scene has much to draw a traveler.

    When it comes to the best of the best, Forbes’ only Five Star property is The Four Seasons, Washington, DC. For nearly three decades, the hotel has drawn well-heeled travelers to its impressive Georgetown location. Offering a large spa, ample meeting space, an enviable location and a signature Michael Mina restaurant (BOURBON Steak), the property is Washington living at its finest.

    Other notable properties include two Ritz-Carlton hotels in D.C. proper (and two more in nearby Northern Virginia). The Georgetown hotel is intimate and boutique in feel, with under 100 total rooms, while the 22nd and M Street location is close to major businesses and draws a large meeting crowd.

    On the historic front, guests seeking a rich taste of Washington’s past could consider The Fairfax on Embassy Row, the Hay-Adams, the Willard InterContinental, the St. Regis or The Jefferson.
    For a waterfront escape, consider the Mandarin Oriental, the closest hotel to the national mall and monuments.

    Those seeking more modern accommodations will love the Park Hyatt, designed by Tony Chi, or the trendy W Hotel near Metro Center downtown. 
  • On February 13, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    Where are the best cocktails in Washington D.C.?

    Craft cocktail culture has become a near ubiquitous term in the vernacular of the well-heeled Washingtonian. In recent years, bars dedicated to the art of mixology have sprung up all over the greater DC area. Here are a few of our favorites: 

    PX
    Todd Thrasher's Old Town cocktail bar has long been a city staple. Open only "when the blue light is on," this small bar above Eamonn's restaurant is by reservation only. Order from a small menu of hand-crafted drinks or have the bartender make something just for you.

    The Gibson
    Located next to Marvin on 14th and U, this also by-reservation-only bar is known for its ever-changing cocktail menu. One of our favorite parts about this bar? Tell the waiter or waitress what you normally like to drink and the bartenders are always happy to whip up a creative drink just for you.

    barmini
    When acclaimed chef Jose Andres opens a cocktail bar, Washingtonians listen. This new Penn Quarter spot offers more than 100 cocktails on the menu as well as small bites. From a high-tech infuser to hand-cut ice cubes, we're pretty sure you want to drink here at least once. 

    Columbia Room
    The former team from The Gibson opened up a second cocktail shop downtown behind the more casual bar The Passenger. Make a reservation for a "cocktail tasting," which involves creations of the day from the mixologist, plus small bites, for $50. 
     

    Best Hotel Cocktails: 
    Washingtonians love happy hour, and it’s only natural that political insiders turn to these classic favorites to continue the workday outside of the office … perhaps with a cocktail or two at their favorite luxury hotel. Here are a few of our favorite spots inside hotels: 

    Off the Record at the Hay-Adams
    It’s no wonder that the closest hotel to the White House also boasts one of the city’s buzziest bars.Media and political elite alike gather for cocktails in the basement of The Hay-Adams at Off the Record,which is decorated with cheeky political caricatures by cartoonist Art Wood.

    Round Robin Bar at The Willard InterContinental
    The hotel known for pioneering the term “lobbying” is undoubtedly one of DC’s most famous politicallandmarks. It’s also home to the tony Round Robin bar, where Senator Henry Clay first popularized thefamous Mint Julep cocktail. Today, Washingtonians and visitors from all over the world join for a scotchor a drink from the “All the President’s Cocktails” menu, where you can pick your libation based on thedrinks preferred by our former Commander in Chiefs.
    Known equally for its discreet staff as for its craft cocktails, this intimate hotel bar is uniquely suitedto quiet conversations. Political insiders and VIPs choose to sip their drinks at this lounge decorated invintage maps of European wine regions to reference the hotel namesake’s love of oenology. In warmweather, you’ll find guests on the outdoor patio, but in cooler months, the truly interesting discussionstake place in the private nooks just outside the bar’s entrance.
  • On February 13, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the best restaurants for a business lunch in Washington D.C.?

    Considering its location as the nation's capital, it's no wonder that many of Washington, D.C.'s restaurants are known as "power dining" hotspots. The three-martini-lunch may have gone out of favor with the recession, but there are stil plenty of wine-and-dine places in the city for a powerhouse meeting. 
     
    In a town known mostly for its buttoned-up appearance, cuisine here is anything but boring. While
    steakhouses have long been a staple, restaurateur Ashok Bajaj, owner of power lunch favorites The
    Oval Room, Bombay Club and Bibiana Osteria Enoteca, says that diners are craving more diversity for
    all meals, including lunch. That much is evident from the success of his restaurants, which range from
    contemporary American to Indian and Italian.
     
    Old Ebbitt
    A presidential pit stop can often make or break a restaurant’s reputation. If that’s the case, then Old
    Ebbitt is one of Washington’s most acclaimed, with a history dating back to 1856. Originally a boarding
    house, President William McKinley even lived there during his tenure in the United States House of
    Representatives. Presidents Johnson, Grant, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Harding were known to frequent
    the bar. Of course, the restaurant has its fair share of celebrity devotees too, everyone from The
    Grateful Dead to Sean Penn and Harrison Ford.
     
    Guests dine on freshly-shucked oysters from the popular raw bar and comfort food like crab cake
    sandwiches under turn-of-the-century glass chandeliers in a clubby yet casual atmosphere. From tourist
    to Tom Hanks (another celebrity regular), everyone is welcome.

    The Caucus Room
    Located in restaurant-centric Penn Quarter, The Caucus Room has long been known as one of DC’s
    premier power dining establishments. The seafood and steak-heavy menu has been pushed out in favor
    of more casual bar bites at the newly-revamped front bar, now dubbed, somewhat accurately, Social
    Reform Kitchen & Bar, but the fine dining menu is still available for private parties and groups.

    The Oval Room
    The Oval Room is the closest most people will get to the Oval Office without an election. Serving
    contemporary American fare, a veritable “who’s who” of political and media types dine here regularly
    – Condoleezza Rice has even admitted that it’s her favorite spot in DC. Just watch out for the
    secret service – the restaurant is so popular that you’re bound to catch at least a few senators and
    congressmen each weekday.
     
    The Palm
    Long considered DC’s best power dining destination for lunch or dinner, clubby steakhouse has good
    reason to brag. Every president since Richard Nixon has dined at the Dupont Circle restaurant, which
    features photos of VIPs and frequent guests on its walls. The steak is naturally a highlight, but oversized
    lobsters are also favorite items. Want to know who the biggest politico or lobbyists of the day are? Just
    look inside one of the restaurant’s four booths, which are generally reserved for power players.
     
    The Source
    Wolfgang Puck’s first restaurant in Washington has been attracting power players of the political,
    media and Hollywood variety since its opening. Of course, that’s not surprising – the sleek glass-fronted
    restaurant and lounge is attached to the Newseum, the museum of the news. Acclaimed equally for the
    food and the see-and-be-seen ambiance, political types ranging from Lindsey Graham to A-lister Paul
    McCartney. Michelle Obama even chose the restaurant for a birthday dinner.
     
    Day diners choose the restaurant for its convenient location—it’s located between Capitol Hill and
    downtown. Popular dishes include spicy tuna tartare cones and pan-roasted rockfish with red thai curry
    shrimp.

    Fiola
    Named one of Bon Apetit’s best new restaurants of 2012, chef Fabiola Trabocchi’s first owned
    restaurant in DC (he previously helmed the kitchen at the now-closed Maestro as well as NYC’s Fiamma)
    takes the trattoria concept and elevates it to fine dining. There’s even a special power lunch menu at the
    sleek Penn Quarter dining room, where favorite items include house-made pappardelle pasta, smoked
    potato agnolotti, hearty ahi tuna burgers and grilled branzino. Boldfaced diners in the restaurant’s first
    year have included governor Chris Christie and Hollywood darling Katherine Heigl.
     

  • On February 13, 2013
    McLean Robbins answered the question: McLean Robbins

    What are the most romantic restaurants in Washington D.C.?

    With Valentine's Day fast approaching, diners are often wondering: what makes a romantic meal in Washington, DC? 

    That's simple: romance is about the company, not the cuisine or the ambiance. But of course, a true gourmet experience can bring the romance out in even the most devoted of couples. Menus offering mood-enhancing ingredients can't hurt. Dim lighting, intimate spaces, and attentive yet not overbearing service contribute to the equation. 

    We'd suggest opting for lighter or smaller plate fare on a romantic evening, as full stomachs aren't always condusive to post-dinner romance, but often the city's most intimate plaecs are famed for their multi-course menus. Komi, Plume at the Jefferson, Fiola, The Inn at Little Washington, Minibar and Restaurant Eve certainly come to mind. 

    Intimate dining and elegant decor also play a role. Georgetown's 1789 certainly fits the bill, offering a tasteful ambiance and a jackets strongly suggested dress code, as well as a rich history and delectably famous rack of lamb. Chef Michele Richard's Citronelle is also an excellent choice. 

  • On February 6, 2013
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