The nice thing about Washington, D.C. is that it has something for everyone. Solo travelers, couples or families – there is no shortage of activities in the city. One of the best things about visiting Washington, D.C. is that a lot of the main attractions are free.
Know Before You Go:
- Washington, D.C. is busy all year but the majority of the crowds start in the early spring and go through summer. August tends to be a bit quiet.
- Check the weather – in the summer temperatures can reach 100+ and winter you never know when it will come. One year we had 18+ inches of snow and some years barely anything.
- The city is metro and/or bus friendly – you will have no shortage of transportation options.
- There are also cabs, Uber and Lyft
- Closest airport is DCA (about 5-10 minutes away)
- IAD and BWI are both about 45 minutes with no traffic (there is always some traffic).
- Heavy traffic times:
- Monday-Friday: 630am-10:00 am & 330pm-730pm – if there is an accident this could heavily impact these times
- Weekends – varies
Where To Stay:
I love the Fairmont in D.C. It is located in the Georgetown neighborhood close to shopping and restaurants. In 2016 they underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in the hotel and it definitely has a new shine about it. Outfitted with touches of the city, you will find things like D.C. maps as wallpaper in the Fairmont Gold level rooms and a bright and gorgeous lobby. You get that extra feeling of being in the big city but still in a luxury oasis.
Make sure and book a Fairmont Gold room so that you get the extra privileges that come with it. The moment you arrive you will be taken to a private check-in, exclusive to Fairmont Gold room residents. You then will have access to the Gold Lounge that comes with daily breakfast and complimentary cocktail canapés in the evening. The food in the lounge is bountiful and delicious.
There are so many places in Washington, D.C. to eat and you will not make it to them all in a weekend so I broke down my favorites.
Staying at the Fairmont on the Gold Level gives you access to the Gold Lounge- I can assure you the breakfast in the lounge is top notch. The service in here is even better!
Just a few blocks down from the Fairmont and walking distance is Westend Bistro. Located inside of the Ritz Carlton Washington, D.C. – this is one of my favorite new places to eat in the district.
A couple blocks walk up from the National Mall by the Hirshhorn is Hillcountry BBQ. I found this restaurant to be in a good location close to attractions and a great place to eat delicious food and take a break from touring the city.
Also located a couple blocks up from the National Mall, Carmine’s. I love the family style food and how when you are there, you feel like family.
Washington, D.C. just had 12 restaurants earn Michelin Stars. I have not dined at any of them yet but I have heard amazing things. If you wish to check them out, plan in advance for reservations. Here is the list –> Michelin Star Restaurants in DC
What To Do:
D.C. has so much to offer everyone – I suggest planning ahead especially if there is an exhibit that you need tickets for (they usually sell out in advance). Here are my favorite things to do in the city:
Watch the sunrise form the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – the sun never rises the same way twice, but if you are lucky enough to catch the sky in its full glory, I promise it will be worth it.
Visit the ONLY rum distillery in the city – Cotton and Reed offers tastings, tours and delicious drinks. I only recently learned about its existence here, but I will definitely be going back. The pina coladas were fantastic.
Visit the monuments & memorials – There are several in the city and a lot of them are grouped around the Washington Monument. The area is easily walk able. My favorite memorial is the World War II Memorial. From the front of it you can see the entire memorial in front of you plus the Lincoln Memorial and the Reflecting Pool.
Visit the variety of art museums – my favorite art museum is the Hirshhorn along with the Sculpture Garden. I love that the galleries are always changing and they keep me enticed to come back. My favorite exhibit there was Yayoi Kusama. It was such a treat to be able to experience h er art through visuals.
I was just back there and saw the Wish Tree for Washington by Yoko Ono and Ai Weiwei’s Trace at Hirshhorn. Both very different and a great experience. I loved the Wish Tree because all the wishes are harvested and moved to her next piece in Iceland. I loved Trace because the amount of work and detail of the photographs lying on the floor is just brilliant. It is definitely a must see if you are in town while it is here.
The Sculpture Garden is also fun to walk through right across from the Hirshhorn.
The National Building Museum is another favorite in the city. For the last two years they have brought in a summer exhibit that has drawn major crowds. The simplicity of the exhibit is what has made it popular – allowing people of all ages to enjoy them. This year they have The Hive – and it will be gone at the beginning of September. I could have stayed playing in this exhibit for hours and never got bored. You can take so many cool photos in there and every angle is different.
When the sun goes down there is a never ending stream of great nightlife spots and bars to hit. One of my favorite things to do is attend Silent Disco. It is on top of the Embassy Row Hotel in Dupont Circle and starts just in time for the sun to set, giving you one of the best views in the city. I really enjoy this scene because the bar has great drinks, they serve food and everyone has on a headset, listening to 1 of the 3 channels that the DJ’s are spinning – and its nearly silent. It is definitely a cool thing to experience and to see everyone having so much fun.
At the Renwick Gallery, One exhibit that is in town currently, Parallax Gap, I found to have the most gorgeous grandeur. The ceiling is just an array of amazing colors and art. The exhibits also change here in this museum, but you can stop in and see what they have on display. The museum is not very big.
Washington, D.C. is also known for having the Smithsonian Museums. It would be near impossible to hit everything in one weekend unless you ran very quickly without taking much in. If you only have time for 1 Smithsonian, my favorite is the Air and Space Museum. Just being able to see all the planes in there and stand by them while learning their history is such a treat for the mind. I highly recommend stopping by there, even if only for 30 minutes.
No matter what you decide to do in the city, you are going to have a great time. I have lived in the area for nearly 13 years and still have not seen or been to everything. It is one of those cities you keep returning to because it has so much to offer. So take your time while you are here and take it all in.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Fairmont and Visit Washington, D.C. as always, opinions are entirely my own.