My first trip to Washington DC was a school trip in 8th grade. I stayed in a hotel room with 3 girlfriends without parents for the first time! Hey o! Needless to say it was a bit of a boy-crazed weekend! But that’s not to say I didn’t learn anything. I have fond memories of seeing the White House for the first time, doing a scavenger hunt at the Smithsonian, and sitting in the theater where Abe Lincoln was shot. It was incredible to learn about history this way rather than from a book!
My mom gave me a camera to use on the trip and 20 rolls of film (pre-digital camera era). I took most of my pictures from the bus that took us from monument to monument. When I got my pictures developed you couldn’t see a thing! They were all blurry because I had taken them while the bus was moving! ha! Let’s just say my photography has come a long way since!
I’ve visited DC a few times since then and last year Mike signed up for the Marine Corps marathon which was a great excuse to scope out the city again. Recently I’ve had a few people email for tips on what to see in DC, so I thought it was about time to put together a little guide for those of you visiting for the first time. DC is pretty easy to get around, so you should be able to see a good chunk of this city in just a weekend. Without further ado, here is Traveling Chic’s guide for Washington DC.
Have a hearty breakfast at Founding Farmers and gear up for a lot of walking.
Spend the morning on a “Monumental walk.” Head over to the National Mall, see the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and many more. You can find a quick overview of most of the monuments here.
If you prefer you can join a walking tour, bus tour, or even ride on a segway to see everything.
It’s also fun to see the monuments at night, so you could try the Monuments by Moonlight tour if that interests you.
For lunch stop at Old Ebbitt Grill it’s a little touristy and a little pricey, but it feels like a place you’d lunch at if you worked in the White House… maybe that’s because it’s only steps away! Be sure to make a reservation. Or for a cheaper lunch check out one of the many ‘& pizza‘ locations around town. One of my favs!
If you didn’t see President Obama at lunch, be sure to walk by 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and say hi!
If you need a little rest head back to your hotel, otherwise make your way across town to Georgetown. My favorite spot in the city!
Georgetown is a historic neighborhood with great shopping, tons of restaurants, and adorable townhouses. It’s also home to Georgetown University.
When you get tired of exploring, make a pit stop at the adorable cafe and bakery Baked & Wired or grab a treat from Georgetown Cupcake.
Stay for dinner and try out Clyde’s of Georgetown, La Chaumiere, an old standby The Tombs or for a splurge hit up 1789 Restaurant.
There are plenty of bars to explore in the area if you’re making a night out of it, or head home early to rest up for another busy day!
Head over to DuPont Circle for coffee and a picturesque stroll. There are a number of embassies in the area that you can walk by. When you’ve had your fill check out the Capitol Hill neighborhood and pop in or walk by the US Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court.
For a quick lunch there are a few Shake Shacks around the city and this one is right by the Spy museum.
After lunch check out one or two of the many museums DC has to offer. Some of my favorites include the International spy museum, Newseum, and the Holocaust Museum as well as the Smithsonian – National Museum of American History!
If you want to see the Declaration of Independence then head to the US National Archives. Be prepared to wait in a long line.
If museums aren’t your thing check out Ford’s Theatre (where Lincoln was shot), join a Bike and Roll tour, head over to Arlington Cemetery to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, visit Old Town in Alexandria, or go see the Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards, Washington Mystics, Washington Capitals or D.C. United play.
I’ve had a fun dinner at Le Diplomate, but there are so many great restaurants in town. One of my good girlfriends lives in DC, so I hit her up for a few dinner and nightlife options. Her recommendations include: Barcelona if you’re in the mood for a wine bar. Teddy and the Bully Bar for drinks or food. Masa 14 for yummy dinner and cocktails! And the Dacha Beer Garden for a fun atmosphere!
There is no shortage of nightlife in DC! From clubs, to jazz, to dive bars, the city has it all! If you’re hoping to see a performance, check out what’s playing at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
This Post Has 18 Comments
Lindsay19 Aug 2015
Your photographs of DC are great! I’m saving this post for when I go to Virginia/DC in October!
Traveling Chic19 Aug 2015
Great! You’ll have to let me know if I should add any restaurants or bars to the list!
Hannah Buttery4 Feb 2017
Add Teds Bulletin!!! 505 8th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
Emily20 Aug 2015
Love this post! I lived in the DC area for three years, and you summarized some of my favorites highlights in the city here! 🙂
Traveling Chic20 Aug 2015
Thanks, Emily! I don’t know DC as well as other cities so I’m glad to hear that! Any favorites I missed?!
Pinay Flying High21 Aug 2015
DC is my second favorite city in the US, after San Francisco. I’ve been there quite a lot and love the Georgetown area but I haven’t been to Chinatown there. Not even sure where it is. :p A reason for me to go back. 🙂
Traveling Chic21 Aug 2015
Yes!!! I have plenty of reasons to go back! I used to live in San Francisco and it’s my favorite US city too! Sometimes I wish I hadn’t moved – if only it wasn’t so expensive!
Sanrua23 Aug 2015
Great read! I’ve been to DC once but time flew by and I didn’t get to see half of what I wanted to so I am eager return. You created a great travel guide so I’ll be sure to reference it when I finally get to return!
megan beth20 Feb 2016
such a good DC recap–especially Barcelona! you can add Ghibellina, Roses Luxury, Etto, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar, Red Hen, Casa Luca, Mintwood Place + Matchbox! 🙂
Traveling Chic20 Feb 2016
Awesome! Thanks, Megan! I’ll add these to the post! More reasons to go back for a visit! xo
Jess10 Jun 2016
Do you recommend any fun night clubs for age 25?
Nina Stanley6 Jul 2016
You don’t mention any of the wonderful FREE Smithsonian Museums! I have also lived in San Fransisco and the Chinatown here is not worth the trip. If you like small walks check out Teddy Roosevelt Island, and definitely Arlington Cemetery! There is a bus tour or you can just walk around on your own.
Elle20 Oct 2016
I’m going to D.C. for the first time in a few weeks! I will have to check out some of these spots! Thanks for the tips!
Andy Feliciotti6 Jan 2017
Nice post! love your photo of the Capitol!
Traveling Chic22 Jan 2017
Jackie K2 Apr 2017
Love your post. Traveling to DC for the first time. 5his was very helpful
Jackie K2 Apr 2017
Love your post. Traveling to DC for the first time. This was very helpful
Kelly Watkins6 Apr 2017
I am visiting DC in a few weeks for the 2nd time. The first was right after 9-11 (trip was planned before the attack) so while it was an unforgettable trip because of the amount of emotion and patriotism at that time, everything was shut down and we were all in a state of shock and haze.
I’m looking forward to a more light hearted trip and then a few weeks later will be sending our college daughter off to DC to work for KC Congressman Kevin Yoder for the summer. =) We plan to do & see everything you suggested! Thank you for your post and the beautiful pictures!
Kelly aka IG: @ictrealtorchick