I recently returned from a weekend trip to Washington, D.C. and thought I’d share the wonderful time I had with you all. I was already in the area visiting with the rest of the moderation team (see NathalieF's recent post) so I extended my trip and spent the weekend doing a solo adventure in the city.
I’m a huge history buff so exploring the National Mall and museums makes for a perfect weekend!
Since this was a short trip, and the National Mall is huge, I needed to find the best way to get around quickly so that I could see as much as possible. Prior to the trip, I had told my mom that I really wanted to rent a bike. This was right before Jonas hit, so I got laughed at for the idea. But, I was pleasantly surprise to arrive and find no snow, blue skies, and the perfect weather for bike riding! Here’s my proof!
It was glorious. Saturday morning I woke up early, hopped on my bike, and rode around to all the memorials until the museums opened at 10.
I spent most of my time in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and National Museum of American History. The last time I was in D.C. and in these museums I was in fifth grade, so I had forgotten how truly amazing these museums are. The amount of artifacts, history and information they hold is absolutely incredible. A few highlights:
I was also able to do quick run-throughs (and we’re talking quick) through the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the National Gallery of Art and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Like I said before, I was determined to get in as much as possible. I think I did a pretty good job! The bike definitely helped, because in most places they were putting in new grass in the middle of the lawn, so there was no cutting across. You had to loop all the way around on the sidewalks.
My flight on Sunday wasn’t until 5:30 p.m., so I got almost another full day to spend exploring. I decided to head South East of the National Mall to the Capital Hill neighborhood to get breakfast and check out the famous Eastern Market. The neighborhood is adorable and reminds me a little bit of my neighborhood in Portland, OR. All the houses are painted different colors and there’s funky exterior décor like piano key staircases and giant paper maché statues in the front yards.
No day for me begins without coffee, so I stopped for breakfast at a cute café called Le Pain Quotidien, where I got coffee and the most delicious avocado toast ever! For you avocado lovers out there, this is for you - Avocado on avocado on avocado!
Next was the Eastern market for local arts, crafts and food. The building is awesome. It was built in the 1800’s and has served as a community center ever since.
On my way back into the National Mall and I stumbled upon another highlight of the trip – The United States Botanic Garden! Gardening is one of my favorite pastimes and I love learning about different types of plants, so this was a treasure trove of a find. The gardens are broken up into sections by climate type (tropics, desert, etc.) and I spent two hours or so walking around looking at everything and learning about plants I had never heard of before.
It was a little difficult getting a decent photo of the place since there was so much going on, but here’s a look into the tropics section. It was very warm and humid!
I could have spent all day there, but alas, I had to return to the hotel and get ready for the trip home. I was actually a little late heading to the airport because of how much time I spent in the gardens, but I used Marriott Mobile App’s check-out feature, which allowed me to leave my keys in the room and head out the door when I was ready. The app is great for quick check-ins also. Definitely recommend using it!
Overall, my time in D.C. was amazing and I look forward to more extended weekend trips like this. For those who have visited Washington, D.C., what are your favorite places to visit and explore?
Thanks for reading!
Great write up lindseyh! I'm with you, the last time I was in D.C. was in grammar school and didn't appreciate the history as much as I would now. Thanks for making my bucket list longer!!
Wow, what a tremendous weekend you had! You really covered a lot of ground, and using the bike was absolutely brilliant! I'll have to remember that. I love the pictures and am happy for you that you enjoyed such fine weather. Can't believe how much you saw, even though as you mentioned, some of your stops were brief. I find that the best time of the day to be out and about in West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardens is in the very early morning, when you almost have it all to yourself. Sounds like you did the very thing. If you love history, do the ranger talks sometime. They're free, and they provide an amazing amount of fascinating history surrounding the monuments.
I love Eastern Market too. The avocado toast looks so yummy! You can't go wrong with a Le Pain Quotidien. There is also a fabulous bakery on the corner of 8th & G St. called Springmill Bread Co. (there's also one in Bethesda and Arlington). I've taken to heading over on my last day and picking up a loaf of Seven Grain Crunch and taking it home with me on the plane.
I have never been to the Botanical Gardens or the Holocaust Museum. I hope to rectify this deficit in October. The Botanical Gardens look and sound fantastic. Last year, I visited the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in the UK, and it was also really fantastic. In August, I plan on attending a performance of the "Sunset Parade" at Marine Barracks 8th & I (not far from Eastern Market) by the U.S. Marine Corps Silent Drill Team and also will visit Mt. Vernon for the first time. So, so much to do and see in DC. One can hardly ever see it all.
As for my favorites, that's so tough because there's so much cool stuff. As I visit more attractions, my opinions will likely change, but I really do love a few things. ANC. Never tire of visiting there, and of course love the Marine Corps War Memorial there (in the summertime on Tuesdays at sunset, you can enjoy a live performance of the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps. Ridiculously amazing.) I have to say, I really enjoyed a recent tour of the Supreme Court and also a tour of - surprise - the U.S. Capitol building. These are not the tours that are arranged through the visitor center of these institutions, but tours that were arranged through my U.S. congressional representatives office in advance. The one's arranged through your congressperson's office are much better, in my opinion, because the groups are smaller and the information is better. Anyway, I was much more impressed with the Capitol building tour than I ever expected. I also loved visiting the National Cathedral (while there, dine at 2 Amy's for brilliant pizza). The docents are extremely knowledgeable. From The Mayflower Autograph Collection, just hop on the N4 bus (15 minutes). For Air and Space, we really loved the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (another Smithsonian) out at Dulles Airport. We liked it even better than the one on the National Mall. Food. Ris for their amazing Portuguese Stew (tell them rinny54 sent you), Founding Farmers, 1789 for a special occasion, Boss Shepherd's (be sure to have a Gin Rickey, DC's signature cocktail made with Green Hat Gin). I had a drink last year at the Hay-Adams. It was just cool. The drinks were very expensive, but they came with the most delightful nibblies.
I always get fired up when someone mentions Washington DC. It's my U.S. Paris.
Another restaurant recommendation would be Zaytinya. A great small plates spot featuring Greek and Turkish specialties along with some other middle eastern creations. Mid priced place by Jose Andreas, one of DC's leading chefs. It's on the noisy side, but otherwise great. Near Chinatown, and right on the Metro. If you go don't order all your choices at once, but order a one or two plates per person, and then a few more when the first ones arrive. Otherwise everything will arrive close together and some food will be cold before you get to eat it.
Glad you had a nice trip....
Le Pan Quotidian is a chain - Le Pain Quotidien - Bakery & Communal Table - there's a fair number of them these days....
ssindc I like Le Pan Quotidian, but I have been a bit disappointed with them in the US. They offer better quality control and better service in Europe than they do in the US.
By contrast, Paul, a French chain of bakeries that serves sandwiches, and other lunch type items, really hits the mark in their US operations. Eating there is like eating at their Paris locations. Their breads are outstanding and their lemon tart is amazing!
Indeed, phctourist, Paul is an interesting option. There's one near my office, and it's pretty popular. Just comparing the two, my general reactions are that:
More broadly, in DC, we've been enjoying a number of other good quick eats/fast food chains - my favorites (all within walking distance from the office) include:
And that's just the tip of the iceberg....
At the other end of the spectrum, last week, we returned to Marcel's - Washington DC French Belgian Restaurant | Marcel's by Robert Wiedmaier - died and gone to heaven. Too expensive to be a regular haunt, but ... oh, my ... it's so good!!!
Tonight we'll be dining with my mother-in-law at one of our newish Northern Virginia Favorites - Trio Grill | Falls Church - there are lots of good options in/around Merrifield and the Mosaic, and we find ourselves eating there more and more frequently....
You are making me jealous of all of your excellent local dining options. I would perhaps dine out more at home if it were so here. Alas, I save it for travel and look forward to it.
PPaul has an upstairs full service operation at their location on Avenue de l'Opera in the 2nd. It's delightful. I was actually a bit bummed when I realized that they had franchised here in the states. Just not the same.
p.s. we also love True Food nearby in the Mosaic, but that's a chain (albeit an excellent chain).
Thanks for the wonderful review. We have been planning a trip to DC for awhile, but the addition of the Mayflower to the MVC portfolio enables us to now use our already committed timeshare investment for the trip. We are considering taking the train from historical Cincinnati Union terminal, doing a 3 night stay at Williamsburg followed by 3-4 nights at the Mayflower.
I'll actually be at the Galyord Conference Center near DC in a few weeks, but likely won't have any time to visit the city. Although I'm disappointed that there aren't any benefits for MR platinums at Gaylord, I look forward to the conference.
Great review! Since my daughter moved there 3+ years ago, we've been able to see most of the sites. As noted, most are free, but the Spy Museum is worth paid admission!
I hit the Cherry blossom in full bloom on Easter weekend, also spring break...the perfect storm for crowds. It was worth it though.