Crystal City is a little self-contained area of Arlington, VA just right next door to the Reagan National Airport which services the greater DC area. Before we rented our apartment up in that area, We stayed mainly in Crystal City during the week due to a work contract up there. So for 5 months I had plenty of time to wander around there and check things out.
While I would not deem this a tourist destination, per se, it is a very handy place to stay while visiting DC in general. We stayed at the Days Inn National Airport ~ Not a bad place to stay for $69-$79 per night. It’s comfortable, the staff is friendly, and they do have a business center (closed til June 2004 though.. the computer room, not the hotel).
There are many other places to stay in the area though if price is no object. The Ramada Inn is across the street and attached to the Crystal City Shops area.. and there is a Holiday Inn next door to the Days Inn for about $100 per night. But, Days Inn is one of the least expensive places to stay (about $50), giving you more money to spend on souvenirs and all the fine eats in the area.
Speaking of Eateries….
Legal Seafood ~ It’s here, but I’d skip this one except for lunch. The Cream of Crab soup is to die for, but the entrees just don’t come out right at this location for some reason. Our dinner for two: $80 plus tip.
Morton’s ~ This is down inside the underground Mall. While we didn’t get around to eating here ourselves, I spoke to many folks who did and have come to the conclusion that it’s all about timing. Sometimes it’s very, very good.. other times it’s merely passable.
Kelly’s Cajun Grill ~ This is down inside the underground mall area also. It is indeed a typical mall joint, but their Bourbon Chicken is very yummy!
Cafe Italia ~ One of the best places in the area, Cafe Italia is dark and very romantic… while being very affordably priced. Great food here for as little as $30 for two.
Kabob Palace ~ You absolutely must eat here when in the area. It’s on Eads just off 23rd back behind the 7-11. Find it! Find it at once! I’m serious. I have twice now driven the two hours from Richmond just to eat this food. Under $10 per person and to die for delicious.
Deluxe Cafe ~ It looks acceptable from the outside, but I’d avoid this 50’s looking diner. There are too many better places right within a 2 block radius to bother with this one, unless you have small kids… then you might go ahead and try this one. Burgers, chicken, that type of fair. Pretty cheap eats if you’re feeding a family.
Shopping and Transportation
Shops at Crystal City ~ Is the underground Mall I’ve been mentioning. This is a full blown mall which sits underneath a bunch of other businesses and Apartment buildings. You can enter at either end, but not through the apartment entrances as those are guarded and those guys have no sense of humor..even when it’s cold and rainy. Jerks. heh.
Down inside you will find all kinds of great shops and restaurants. They have the usual mall shops like Borders Books, Radio Shack, Washingtonian Shoes, Metro Camera, Claire’s Boutique, 2 B. Dalton Booksellers, several jewelry stores, and just a ton of privately owned specialty shops. I forget the name of the place now, but this one in the Alley section of the mall has the coolest dragons ever.
The mall is broken up into 3 sections.. the North end, South End, and the Alley. Do wander through it all. In between North and South is a long enclosed hallway with periodic doors where you can step outside and have a smoke. This is also lined with a myriad of businesses like barber shops and doctor’s offices. The folks who live in those apartments above it really never have to leave the complex. They even have a grocery store down here!
Also in between the North and South ends you will find the DC Metro station. This will take you to just about anywhere you want to go in the greater DC area and is really one of the easiest subways to navigate that I’ve had the pleasure to ride. It’s also very clean and well kept.
All in all I do recommend booking a hotel here in Crystal City if you plan on visiting the Washington, DC area. It’s convenient and the hotels are less expensive than inside the city proper… besides.. you have to eat at the Kabob Palace!