“Everything in this city is a clue according to National Treasure.”
If you ignore the politics, Washington DC and it’s surrounding metro area is actually pretty cool. With a variety of things to do, see, and eat it draws in quite the crowd every year. In 2017, there was an impressive 22.8 million visitors. So, if you haven’t gone yet…why not?
The DC metro was my home after high school and during college. I lived in Alexandria and didn’t have a car. Thankfully, I didn’t need one. Sitting at number four in the nation, DC’s metro system is super convenient and easy to use (except the one time I missed my bus stop and it took me an hour to get back BUT that was more user error). So, if you’re in or around the city, get a metro card and save yourself some outrageous parking fees.
Obviously, if it’s your first time in the nation’s capitol you should start with your typical touristy stops. This alone is going to take a couple of days, because there’s just SO MUCH. Between national monuments, a zoo, art galleries, and all the Smithsonian museums it can get overwhelming. My suggestion? Start with the Smithsonians. They’re all pretty much located in one area (except for a couple in New York and one in Virginia, really guys?).
It’s estimated that you’d need three years to see everything that these fantastic museums and galleries have to offer. Yikes. No one has that kind of time. Go through the ones DC has to offer and make a list to narrow down which ones you want to prioritize. The best thing about them? They are free to the public. My favorites are the Hirshhorn, American History, and the Natural History. I’ve been there more times than I can remember; if I’m traveling with someone who has never been, they’re usually our first stops. Remember: Get in before the crowds!
Two more museums that I have to gush about: Newseum and the International Spy Museum. The International Spy Museum is a cool stop with a lot of interactive exhibits; if you have kids, this is definitely where you need to take them. Keep in mind, they are currently in the middle of a move to L’Enfant Plaza and will be reopening in May (there’s a metro stop in L’Enfant, just so you know!) The new location will be double the size of the original one and whenever I get back to DC, I’m going.
DC’s Newseum is probably one of my favorite museums I’ve ever been to. When I went, I was heavily leaning towards photojournalism and was basically a kid in a candy store. At a time when Freedom of Press is constantly under attack, it’s really important to understand and acknowledge how important the press is, not to just the US, but to the world. It’s also right down the road from the Capitol, so you can easily tour both in one day.
Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a religious person. I walked away from the Catholic church and prefer to avoid organized religion. That being said, the National Cathedral in DC is absolutely stunning. As a photographer, I could not wait to get in there with a model. The photos were stunning and colorful. It’s worth the trip in just for the view if you go to the very top.
Now that you’re exhausted and hungry, let’s change gears a bit. Washington DC has such a great variety of food choices. If you’re like me and enjoy Indian cuisine (and you should in all honesty) head out of the city proper and down to Village at Shirlington in Arlington. There’s convenient transit stops to use, so again, a car isn’t necessary! Aroma Indian Restaurant is one of my favorite Indian restaurants ever. From the second you walk in, the delicious smells hit you and it’s history from there. If you get in during lunch, they have a buffet that I highly recommend.
Within walking distance is a spot that is too cozy not to mention: Busboys and Poets. While I haven’t eaten anything other than dessert there, it’s a great spot for anyone with a heart and soul for the arts, food, and bringing different people from different walks of life together. When I went, I sat between my mother and my husband. One had carrot cake, one had chocolate cake, me? I was in heaven.
Spending so much time in DC, you’d think I’d have experienced the Cherry Blossom Festival…think again! For whatever reason, I can never get a calendar that leaves time for it. I have seen them in bloom once before and it is a beautiful sight. So if you’re going to DC in the early spring, keep an eye on the bloom which can be tracked at cherryblossomwatch.com. As of right now, the peak bloom for 2019 hasn’t been announced yet so you still have time to schedule that trip! Of course, there’s festivals happening all the time so definitely take advantage of DC’s tourist page for a calendar of events.
If you’re from DC or have been before, do you have a favorite place to eat, drink, or just see? Drop a comment below! And as usual, travel well and travel often!