Tour Guide Carla Smith’s Perfect Day in DC

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In DC Dream Day, we ask our favorite people from the neighborhood to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District

As a professional guide, Carla Smith manages to show people places in DC that even the natives don’t know about. Among these hidden gems: the Diplomatic reception rooms at the State Department.

“All the antiques there were all donated by wealthy people who have high-end antiques in their collections,” says Smith, who is certified by the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, DC “It’s just an amazing experience to see something like that.”

Smith, a DC resident for more than 30 years, worked in the hospitality industry before changing careers in 2010 after earning her tour guide license. She typically runs private tours for couples, families and businesses, and since the city began to emerge from lockdown, business has boomed for Smith.

Naturally, Smith would spend her dream day at some of her favorite haunts that she never tires of visiting, no matter how many times she took people out.

I like to start early in the morning. I walk about an hour in the hills of my neighborhood of Palisades and Kent. I insert my headphones and try to follow this week’s episode of “The Thomas Jefferson Hour” podcast. Yes, I’m a Jefferson nerd.

To fuel up for the day, I make my first stop at Black coffee on MacArthur Boulevard NW. I love their lox sandwich and their avocado BLT – those are my favorites.

I keep a list of new exhibits that have recently opened, and on my dream day, I hope to visit at least two of them. There’s an amazing new exhibit at the National Museum of the American Indian by Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary. It is very contemporary and absolutely stunning. This is the origin story of the people of the Pacific Northwest.

Next stop would be my favorite museum in DC, which is the Smithsonian American Art Museum. As a tour guide, I love that he tells American history in chronological order through the eyes of American-born artists or artists who immigrated to the United States, and that are their works after their arrival. It’s unique. I don’t believe there are any other museums that offer this experience.

So now it’s time to venture across the street for a little refreshment at cranes on Ninth Street NW, which is a Japanese-Spanish fusion concept. It’s kinda new since they opened during the pandemic. My husband and I rarely like to sit at a table for two but prefer to sit at the bar, have a glass of wine, or in this case they have great creative cocktails and orders. It’s my dream day, so I can drink during lunch and order tapas-style appetizers. Cranes is really perfect for that.

I’ll head to the stores at Downtown, hoping to find a sale at the Longchamp store. And if nothing else, it’s gorgeous window shopping, almost like going to an art gallery.

And then for the next stop, I always like an hour at Renwick Gallery. They were recently closed but are reopening on May 13. I love craftsmanship, and I love American artisans in particular. The exhibits at the Renwick are always beautifully curated. And I’m just shivering in anticipation of what will be in store when it reopens. Plus I think they have the best museum gift shop in town. It’s always hard to resist.

So my next refueling stop will be nearby at Pisco and Nazca Ceviche Gastrobar on L Street. Their pisco sours are the best in town. Again, we sit at the bar and order entrees, and their ceviche selection is sublime. My favorite is Leche de Tigre.

And then the evening ended by watching a set at DC improvement on Connecticut Avenue NW. I love stand-up comedy and prefer smaller style venues like you have to improv. Also, you can often see comedians who are just starting their careers. For example, right after John Oliver joined “The Daily Show,” we saw him perform up close.

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