Who's asking: Chandra Leister, Maine
Chandra, I'm hoping this is still useful for you -- even if it isn't, it's fun for me to think about, and I could write a full-length article about it.
You don't say which five hours it is. My recommendations for 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. would be different from those for noon to 5:00 p.m., and different again for 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
But let's say you've got an afternoon -- 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. -- and the weather is a typical June afternoon in Washington, hot and muggy with a chance of thunderstorms.
You could be paralyzed by choice, but what I would do is hop the Metro to Dupont Circle. If you're tired, you can sit for a couple of hours in one of the small movie theaters on 19th Street; if you want to play tourist, take the Q Street exit and head to the Phillips Collection.
The building itself soothes the soul, and the collection is beautiful: it's modern art, meaning that it starts with Impressionism and moves to the present day. Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" is one of the showpieces of the collection, but I love the later stuff: Arthur Dove, Georgia O'Keeffe, Braque, Matisse, Klee.
Unless you're a serious student, you can do justice to The Phillips Collection in two hours -- two hours is about my limit for museums, anyway. Then I'd start working my way southeast.
Walk back toward Dupont Circle and stop at Kramerbooks on Connecticut Avenue, just north of the Circle on the far side of the Q Street Metro entrance. It's a great, generous independent bookstore with a cafe attached, so if you want a cup of coffee, take a break and hang out. I can easily spend an hour there.
Stop off in the Circle, and if you have time, walk around it. Washington was designed to be a city of vistas for horse carriages; if you walk around Dupont Circle, stop to look up each of the streets that spoke off it. They're beautiful views, especially at this time of year. Do not kick any pigeons by accident (I did this once).
And then cut over to M Street, and walk down to 16th, to the Jefferson Hotel. If you arrive before 4:00, you can have tea in the bar; if you're there after 4:00, have a cocktail. The Jefferson bar is one of my favorite places in the world, cool and quiet and tucked away.
On a different day I'd give you an entirely different set of recommendations -- it's the perfect time of year for the rooftop bar on the Hotel Washington, and I love the National Portrait Gallery, and I could spend at least an hour just sitting in the Peacock Room of the Freer -- and there's the baby panda up at the Zoo, though he doesn't come out in the heat.
But just for today, that's what I wish I was doing.
Lucky Stiff opens tonight at Hallowell City Hall, and although I am the producer I would not steer you wrong: it's a darn good show. Come see us this weekend or next; visit the Gaslight Theater website for reservation information.