Discover Washington D.C.’s two new mega-attractions: the $500 million Museum of the Bible and the $2.5 billion District Wharf, both of which opened in Fall 2017. The first aims to nourish the soul by reminding visitors about the Good Book, and the second sustains the body with trendy restaurants, outdoor promenades and a winter ice skating rink. Both new venues add spirited attractions to D.C.’s cultural and entertainment scenes.
Explore the Museum of the Bible, a 430,000-square-foot facility blocks from the Mall. To guarantee admission, obtain free, timed-entry tickets online prior to your visit. The museum also welcomes walk-up guests, depending on the crowds.
The stated goal of the Museum of the Bible isn’t evangelism. “Our mission is to invite all people to engage with the Bible,” says Steven Bickley, vice president of marketing for the museum. “We take a non-sectarian approach.”
Well, yes and no. Underlying all the exhibits and thousands of artifacts is the belief in the factual accuracy of the Bible. For some, those assumptions are fine. For others, that interpretation remains too simplistic, or too literal, and by implication, too dismissive of other religions’ great books. Even so, the museum offers enough to interest most people, including children reared in the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the Courageous Pages’ children’s gallery, kids can topple pillars like Samson and pitch stones at Goliath.
The high-tech videos and digital magic that move guests through 15 scenes from the Hebrew Bible, including the parting of the Red Sea, engage youngsters and adults too. In the New Testament section, walk through a re-creation of a New Testament village. The History of the Bible section displays some 200 Torah scrolls, as well as a first edition of the 1611 King James Bible and other biblical texts.
Manna, helmed by Chef Todd Gray, serves tasty Israeli fare such as hummus, couscous, lamb meatballs and flatbreads. Manna keeps kosher food available for guests.
Head to the District Wharf, a complex of 24-acres of land and 50-acres of water that redefines D.C.’s Southwest waterfront. The project incorporates the long-time yacht club and fish market and adds residences, hotels, restaurants, bars, and nightlife. Phase One debuted in October 2017. Phase Two is estimated to be completed by 2020.
Importantly, the Wharf turns the Southwest waterfront into a destination worth lingering at for strolls, cheap eats, fine dining, concerts and just plain fun. Four piers jut out into the Washington Channel, adding extra room for walking as well as interest to the nearly mile-long promenade fronting the water. The Recreation Pier features swings along one side and a fire pit at the end. In temperate weather, the Boathouse rents kayaks for paddling the channel, and kids (and adults) can dance through the spray fountain with its timed spurts.
Beware: currently the promenade allows vehicles, something that seems like an accident waiting to happen. Hold tight to little kids as cars pop up unexpectedly.
Stay at the Wharf for dinner and music. The destination blooms with restaurants. Book ahead for a table at Del Mar, another excellent area restaurant by Chef Fabio Trabocchi. The seafood paella is especially memorable. Requin serves French fare, The Brighton offers pub grub, Kith and Kin plates Afro-Caribbean dishes and Hank’s Oyster Bar, a D.C. institution, offers fresh seafood.
The $60 million Anthem a concert hall built for music, anchors the Wharf. Seating 2,500 to 6,000 people depending upon the stage configuration, the venue opened with the Foo Fighters and recently headlined Bob Dylan, Bon Iver as well as Pentatonix. The 300-seat Pearl Street Warehouse offers a more intimate setting and tends to host Americana, bluegrass and blues musicians.
Although not part of the Wharf, Arena Stage, a city icon and center for American theater, is practically across the street from the Wharf development. Seeing a play at one of the Arena’s three stages makes for a great evening.