The Boys And The Bees Of Washington, D.C.

Photos by Taylor Grote and Andy Feliciotti on Unsplash / Edited by Devin Randall.

Get To Know Washington, D.C.

The city of Washington, D.C. is an interesting one. It’s at the heart of the American government and politics, yet that’s not all there is to the city. Outside of the White House or Capitol Hill, there are rich and diverse livelihoods and culture. Once you take the D.C. out of Washington, you experience stories and situations unknown to the typical tourist and traveler. There are a myriad of secret stories wrapped up in this oh-so-important town.

But for now, I’m going to tell you three stories of the boys, the bees, and the boarding of Washington, D.C.

Juniper’s BeeTini and Toni Burnham next to Fairmont Washington, D.C.’s rooftop beehive. / Images via Devin Randall

The Bees

First, we’ll start off with the bees.

Earlier this year, the Royal Geographical Society of London ruled that bees are the most important living beings on this planet. And in 2015, the Obama Administration recognized bees and other pollinators as “critical to the nation’s economy, food security and environmental health.” Yet, unfortunately, they are disappearing. And where are they going? Washington, D.C.? Not really, but there are way more in the city than you might first think. In fact, all you have to do is look up.

There’s a strong, though often unknown, rooftop bee culture in Washington, D.C. Above restaurants, hotels, private homes, and even the White House, there are beehives being raised, cultivated, and used for producing honey. I stumbled upon this trend while getting a tour of the Fairmont D.C. (more on that establishment later). While being shown the beautiful rooftop view by Toni Burnham, president of the D.C. Beekeepers Alliance, I was presented with the sight of the hotel’s rooftop bees.

Photo by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

The hotel uses the bees to pollinate the local flora and create honey for its restaurant Juniper. And let me tell you, it is worth it. Not only was the deceptively strong BeeTini a great use of this in-home honey, but the honey-infused cornbread would have won the ire of any Southern chef.

Humans aren’t the only ones benefiting from these rooftop hives, however. The bees are too. Again, bees are disappearing and part of the reason, according to a study by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is high levels of Varroa mites and nosema infections within hives. The state of Virginia, and many other states, is trying to convince citizens to get into beekeeping. By reducing pesticide use and maintaining beehives, humans are giving bees a fighting chance.

“I’ve got to tell you,” said Burnham, “Washington tastes delicious.”

Not only that, but protecting the world’s most important living beings is pretty sweet too.

The Boys

But not everything about Washington, D.C. is about the bees. For a gay traveler looking to explore Washington, there’s plenty of halls, drinking holes, and bars to meet other boys.

During a free period to explore the city, I got a message from a friend of mine. He messaged, “Devin, you are in dc. Go find Nellie’s.”

After searching what the heck “Nellie’s” was, and finding out it was a gay bar, I decided to venture out and give it a try. Imagine my surprise upon getting to the bar that it was PACKED. Keep in mind, it was a Sunday afternoon. Color me impressed.

Now being an ambivert, my experience in the space could have gone one of two ways. Either I’d clam up and not connect with the gay space like my time in Key West, or I’d make friends with my immediate area and stick with them all night long like my time in London. Unfortunately, it was the prior in D.C. That, however, wasn’t the spot’s fault.

Nellie’s is a two-story gay sports bar with balconies overlooking U street and 9th street. The space is pretty big, which made the crowded thoroughfare that much more surprising. Like with many gay bars of this era, the venue caters to many demographics and offers a diverse set of events. I had stepped right into an after-party for some gay sports league. People danced, talked, and drank the afternoon air away while I, for the most part, watched.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total wallflower. I buzzed around and shared a few words here. A few glances there. But nothing stuck. For the most part, I just enjoyed being in the space. Submerged in this D.C. spot on a regular old D.C. day. Something unknown to most travelers but so totally normal for gays living in the area.

Despite my general shyness within the moment, I would definitely return to Nellie’s. And, I highly recommend it for any traveling gay. In fact, I would have stayed longer if it weren’t for those guys who started getting into a fight in the middle of the day. But that’s a story for another day…

Image via Fairmont Hotels and Resorts

The Boarding

Deciding not to take a Lyft ride back, I walked my way to the hotel. There’s something fun yet calming about walking through an unknown town during the day. With my Maps app in hand, J Balvin and TeaMarr humming in my headphones, and the pale yellow sun flying above me, I peacefully walked my way to my temporary home.

That’s the first great thing about Fairmont Washington, D.C. Located in the city’s West End, the hotel is surrounded by upscale condominiums and fine dining establishments. The West End maintains a calm and composed atmosphere. Yet, it stands near the Georgetown, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle, and Downtown areas. All of which, hold their own personalities ranging from commercial meccas, entertainment enterprises, and some government sectors. Being stationed virtually at the center of these areas, the Fairmont is a peaceful walk or quick cab ride away from a myriad of adventures.

Image via Fairmont Washington, D.C.

And once inside, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve made it within the upper crust of Washington, D.C. At least, for however long you’ll be staying there. The lobby’s Art Deco style is placed in every aspect of the room. From its beautiful chandelier to its finely crafted furniture, as seen above, every aspect of the building’s design was made with care and consideration.

But that care doesn’t stop at just the hotel’s look. From Fairmont Washington D.C.’s mascot Georgie, whom you might see lounging around herself in the lobby, to a long list of services such as In-Room spa services, Complimentary Internet Access, Valet Parking, Fitness Classes, and more. The Fairmont is here to foster a sense of convenience and home away from home in Washington, D.C. Except, with an upscale flair.

And let’s not forget the drinks and food mentioned earlier! I kid you not when I say I ate like a king while dining at Juniper. Again, the honey drink was sweet, delicious, and dangerous. The cornbread was a violent mic drop no Southern cook could take. But that’s not all. The steak particularly was delicious and held up just as well when eaten cold as a late-night snack (yes, I made sure to save leftovers). Even if you don’t stay at Fairmont, you have to dine at the Juniper while dropping by Washington, D.C.

Have a night in by drinking at the Juniper. / Image via Fairmont Washington, D.C.

An Intimate Look At Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is full of surprises unknown to the unprepared and beginner traveler. But tourist be fair to the demands of traveling a beautiful and mysterious city like Washington, D.C. If you put in the work, like researching beforehand or walking off the beaten path (like up the stairs to the roofs), the city will open up to you.

From discovering the barely hidden secrets of rooftop beekeeping to finding peace within a crowd of gay strangers, or finding a home away from home in an upscale hotel. Washington, D.C. can provide it all. All you have to do is dig a little deeper.

What do you think?