I travel around Washington D.C. and New York City often enough that they receive a special top ten post from not quite a local but not quite a tourist either. My trips to D.C. have been a mix of visiting friends, frequent business travel to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and family day trips when foreign visitors are in town. Washington D.C. is beautiful, historical, busy,packed with transplants, eclectic, maneuverable and a place I thought I may move before I decided to move to Ireland. Who knows, maybe we will be back!
Top Ten D.C. Activities:
- Visit the Newseum. IT IS SO GREAT. My mom and I spent the morning walking around recently and I can’t wait to return. It is basically a history museum presented as people witnessed events in real time. We spent about three to four hours walking around the exhibits. The Newseum does charge an admission fee unlike the wonderful and free Smithsonian museums but it is well worth it. You also get this amazing view of the Capital from the museum windows!
- Learn something. I have probably visited most of the Smithsonian museums in my life through school trips and free afternoons but my favorite to walk around are the National Portrait Gallery (mainly for Stephen Colbert’s portrait and the beautiful inner courtyard), The Museum of American History (mainly for the first lady dresses) and the new National Museum of African American History & Culture. Some of the other museums like Air & Space and Natural History are good but a bit too geared to children for my preference.
- Hop on a Capital BikeShare and explore the MANY monuments. Ride around the National Mall from Capital Hill to the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. My favorite memorial is the World War II memorial located in the center of the Mall. It is both moving and a crowd pleaser because who doesn’t love posing for a photo in front of their state pillar.
- Catch a game. The Nationals Stadium is an easy metro ride out and the Wizards and Capitals play at the centrally located Verizon Center. This winter we arrived late to the Wizards game and scalped great tickets for $10 each. The Capitals and Nationals tickets are a bit more expensive but it is easy enough to find a deal especially if you purchase after start time.Notice I did not include the Washington Redskins. They are so bad and the stadium is about an hour drive from anywhere. I highly recommend the far superior Baltimore Ravens if you want to catch an NFL game and are in the DC/Baltimore region. We attended an away win for the Orioles at the Battle of the Beltway at Nationals Park and had a great time, can’t say the same for the D.C. fans.
- Ride the Metro. As an outsider I love the D.C. Metro. I hear from locals it tends to shut down often but as a Philly resident where the SEPTA decides to sometimes run once an hour the D.C. Metro is an underground maze come true. The metro will take you anywhere in town and pretty far out of town in all directions. It is the absolute best alternative to sitting in the awful D.C. traffic which takes over all roads from 7 AM-7 PM pretty consistently.
- Visit the White House. Either run around it when you are touring the Washington Mall Monuments or book a tour. Last Christmas I visited with my parents for a tour of the White House decorated for the holidays. During the tour you are kept to a pretty small portion of the White House but it was still stunning. I believe we booked months in advance so make sure to schedule this if you are interested.
- Stay at the Kimpton Hotels. Washington D.C. hotels are definitely on the pricier side, especially when congress is in session, but you can get a boutique hotel for the same cost as a Marriott or Hilton. I have loved both the Hotel Monaco near the Verizon Center and Hotel George by Union Station. There are about a dozen Kimptons around the city where you can’t go wrong. The restaurant attached to the Hotel George is a favorite of my co-workers so we never visit D.C. without steak frites at Bistro Bis
- Listen to local bands. Cool music venues or really cool music in general are not my strength but D.C. has plenty to offer. The 9:30 Club, U Street Music Hall, The Lincoln DC among many others all bring in great acts worth checking out for those people more hip than me.
- Eat.We had a long muggy, summer in DC, night out with co-workers at the very fun Granville Moores for moules-frites and drinks on their roof top bar. Founding Farmers is a small chain of sustainability sourced comfort food with a twist that consistently delivers a yummy meal. I could eat Indian food every day and loved our meal at Rasika for an upscale version of my regular take out order. I spotted more than a few D.C. celebrities at Zaytinya while eating all of the hummus and had the tastiest anchovies and sangria at Jaleo. D.C. is filled with amazing restaurants but also hundreds of high quality fast casual restaurants in any concept you can dream of eating. I haven’t had a particularly good meal at the Old Ebbitt Grill but it is great for people watching.
- Shop in Georgetown. A bit removed from the city is just the fanciest neighborhood with preppy shops, decent restaurants and beautiful views. If you are feeling athletic walk or bike on the Potomac River trails along the George Washington Parkway. Well worth it if the weather is nice.