Washington, D.C. Travel Guide
Ted Leonsis, serial entrepreneur and owner of three local sports franchises, gives us his Washington D.C. travel guide.
When he ventures out, he favors contemplative, quiet and historic distractions. A man as busy as Leonsis—he also serves as the chairman of SnagFilms, a website that screens documentary films, and of Clearspring, a content-sharing network, and he sits on the boards of American Express (owner of this magazine), NutriSystem, Groupon, Rosetta Stone and Georgetown—needs his downtime. “I like to go on long walks and enjoy a place,” he says. For a self-proclaimed “student of happiness” whose book offers “6 Secrets to Extraordinary Success in Life and Work,” this means practicing what he preaches, making sure he doesn’t “overindex” one part of his life (business success) to the detriment of others, including carving out personal time for loved ones and for himself.
When he’s not strolling through Oak Hill Cemetery and Georgetown’s stunning campus, Leonsis takes guests to Dumbarton Oaks, a 19th-century Federal mansion in Northwest D.C. that offers formal gardens and a collection that includes one of only five existing copies of the first printing of the Articles of Confederation, as well as two paintings by noted American portraitist Charles Willson Peale.
Leonsis also brings visitors to the Lincoln Memorial to stand on the mark where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, looking out over the National Mall. Then he likes to walk the two miles to the U.S. Capitol to stand and reflect back on the Mall and Mr. Lincoln from the point of view that President Obama enjoyed during his swearing-in ceremonies. “Public spaces help define a community, and ours are just magnificent,” says Leonsis.
Recently, he and his wife spent a Saturday exploring the National Archives, which houses the founding documents of United States government (the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights) and presents exhibits of diaries, presidential memorabilia, military records, Indian treaties and rare film footage and audio recordings of famous Americans.
The Library of Congress is another of Leonsis’s favorite haunts. “It’s truly remarkable, the treasure chest we have here,” he says. “When you live in D.C., you sometimes become numb to it.”
PATRICIA KIME is a Washington, D.C.–based writer whose credits include the Washington Post, USA Today, and USA Weekend.
Ted Leonsis’s Address Book
2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Many a deal is made over breakfast at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, Washington’s only designated five-star, five-diamond hotel. Seasons, the hotel’s light-filled, airy dining room, can be deceiving: The tables are spread apart to allow for private conversation and many are tucked away from view. The contemporary hotel underwent a $34 million makeover in 2008 and now boasts a 1,650-piece art collection, as well as Bourbon Steak, one of Leonsis’s favorite restaurants.
Willard InterContinental Hotel
1401 Pennsylvania Ave.
The Willard attracts heavy hitters and the not-so-serious: Martin Luther King Jr. polished his “I Have a Dream Speech” here nearly 50 years ago, and comedian Jon Stewart set up shop at the Willard before his March to Restore Sanity last October.
700 F St. NW
Travelers who mix fun with business love the Hotel Monaco’s location: The Kimpton property sits catercorner from the Verizon Center, which houses not only Leonsis’s sports teams but also the city’s main concert venue. The Monaco has a reputation for taking care of its business travelers, with warm service, daily newspapers, happy hours and more.
1226 36th St. NW
What Georgetown graduate doesn’t love the Tombs, a crowded basement pub filled with GU crew paraphernalia, thick wooden tables and elbow-to-elbow crowds consuming great quantities of hand-drawn beer? Fortunately for Leonsis, he has more than one excuse to return frequently to this popular Washington watering hole: As noted above, he sits on the university’s board, and his daughter is a freshman at the school.
1625 Eye St.
This spot has a “not-your-father’s steakhouse” vibe, plus a traditional menu and a modern atmosphere with comfy banquettes, pulsing music and bare tables.
701 9th St. NW
When Leonsis visits another city, he likes to seek out neighborhood eateries, and he has a few of his own in D.C. One of his top choices is Zaytinya, a Greek restaurant steps away from the Verizon Center. “D.C. is becoming a hotbed of creative talent with a wide range of restaurants to fit different styles,” he notes.
1225 19th St. NW
For D.C. power lunches, Leonsis prefers the private University Club, but he often opts for the Palm.
The man who listed “own a Ferrari” (#30, checked off) and “own a great personal collection of watches” (#29, checked off) as priorities shops at Virginia’s Tysons Galleria, a rarely crowded upscale mall with stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Cartier. It also hosts popular local chain restaurant Lebanese Taverna and other pleasant dining venues. Leonsis and his wife are often approached by fans when they’re out in D.C. As Leonsis describes it, “They’ll ask me if I remember them from an email they sent, or they’ll introduce themselves or just walk by me and say ‘Go, Caps!’ This is a nice community.”
Despite his airborne brush with fate more than 25 years ago (and his private jet), Leonsis still flies commercial much of the time. He also enjoys driving, but he really likes the Acela for both convenience and price. After all, he didn’t get to be a billionaire by spending his money foolishly—except maybe on the Ferrari. “Owning a Ferrari wasn’t as fulfilling as getting married and having children,” Leonsis writes in his book. “In fact, I found that owning a Ferrari wasn’t really fulfilling at all, and I quickly sold it. The best part is I actually sold it for a profit, bought a much cheaper Mercedes-Benz and donated the rest to build two Habitat homes in New Orleans after Katrina, which made me really happy!”