Our nation’s capital is a treasure of museums, monuments, galleries and restaurants – many free to enjoy – a great way to lose yourself in introspection as you ponder the history of our country. Visiting here makes you proud of all we have accomplished, and that those before us thought to preserve these rich treasures of our history.
While this is obviously an important trip to do with family, I prefer to do this trip alone so I can wander the portrait gallery and explore the gardens in solitude. Below you will find my favorite museums, things to do and restaurants – this is definitely a city with incredible food of every possible style – and you’ll burn off every calorie. Pack your best, most comfortable walking shoes!
My most recent trip to Washington D.C. was in 2011 so updated research may be needed.
Getting There/Where To Stay
Washington Dulles airport is your best bet, though some may be lucky enough to be on a train route which would be cheaper and more fun.
There are so so many hotels to choose from. Good time to try a booking site for best prices. There is a LOT of walking to do so keep this in mind – maybe something near the subway line or closer to the museums. I like to stay in Penn Quarter because it is walking distance to some fantastic restaurants and leaves me close to home after dinner.
Things To Do
This is my favorite museum. You keep running into people you know – from the faces you only know from school history books to Obama – all the key figures in history are here. Always check out the exhibitions for exciting new finds.
A destination that needs no explanation – seeing the Declaration of Independence -and all that is involved in protecting it – a must. A real-life National Treasure.
If you have the luxury of picking when you travel to D.C., there is only one answer – Cherry Blossom season. Every spring these gorgeous trees gifted to the U.S. from Tokyo, Japan bloom for just a few weeks. You can take a break from the feet on a paddleboat to enjoy, or just make a picnic out of it.
There are 3 monuments on the shores of the Tidal Basin – the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Martin Luther King, Jr, Memorials.
I always claim to NOT be a garden person, so that means if I list a garden as a go-to spot, it must have been pretty good. This is a great respite after a long walk on the pavement up and around Capitol Hill. Constantly changing, but always with a butterfly garden, a Japanese section, and winding walkways perfumed with lush flora and hidden benches where you can just sit and meditate – a special place. It isn’t huge so you don’t have to plan significant time for it – good way to top off an afternoon.
The Eastern Market
While I don’t visit every garden on my trips, I DO always visit local markets. The Eastern Market did not disappoint – an indoor/outdoor food, arts & crafts market that serves this upscale area of D.C. There are many food vendors so this is a great place to grab a bite even if you can’t take advantage of the fresh produce. It’s located in a beautiful neighborhood where you can enjoy the architecture and browse the real estate.
Old Town Alexandria, VA
A short cab ride from D.C. brings you to a great diversion from concrete and museums. Old Town Alexandria is a super charming historic district on the Potomac Waterfront. Wander the brick streets and browse all the shops. Eat in a tavern. There are lots of tours available for those who want to dive into the history.
Another great side trip to mix in with the museums is a visit to Georgetown. Anchored by the university of the same name, this neighborhood of federal architecture buildings, shops and restaurants makes an enjoyable afternoon. The waterfront park has a riverfront promenade and gardens, and bike path as well.
Other Sites Worth Seeing
- Arlington National Cemetery
- Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (check for events!)
- Smithsonian Museum of National History
- National Museum of Art
- National Cathedral
- WWII Memorial
- The White House
Where I Ate
Some of the best meals I’ve ever eaten were in Washington D.C. It’s a challenge when I go back to decide how many repeats and how many new places to try. Below is a list which includes some memorable dishes.
- Old Ebbit Grill – raw oysters!
- The Bombay Club – upscale Indian – absolutely everything was superb
- Rasika – Modern Indian – Crispy Spinach Salad, Fig Curry, Butternut Squash Lentils
- Zaytinya – Mediterranean – Lamb in phyllo, brussel sprouts flash fried with burberries
- Jaleo – Jose Andres/authentic Spanish – Iberian pig, pork canneloni with bechamel sauce, asparagus with romesco sauce
- Oyamel – Jose Andres – modern Mexican – read about Oyamel and what it is so you can appreciate the decor
- Rosa Mexicana – Upscale Mexican – tableside guac, flight of aged Tequilas
- Marcel’s – Contemporary European – amazing meal, truly, but also one of the most expensive I’ve ever had – famous souffle (must tell them at beginning of meal)
- Das (Georgetown) – Ethiopian – something totally unique. No idea what I ate but it was hot and good.
- Gadsby’s Tavern (Alexandria) – like dining back in revolutionary times – simple, hearty fare – flight of Ales of the Revolution and Cock-a-leeky pie
This concludes my overview of our nation’s capital. Ready to go?