There is no place in the United States quite like Washington, DC. As our great nation's capital, the history & landmarks are spectacular yet somber and inspirational. From the Smithsonian to the Lincoln Memorial, the white house to the WW2 memorial, I was mesmerized by the city and immediately wanted to go back, if not to move there. DC is a unique city, not only because it is the capital but a vast city without Skyscrapers. This, along with the Graeco-Roman stone structures and columns, gives DC a charming European feel. Whether you're visiting for a few days or a week, there's plenty to keep you busy in this vibrant city. This bustling city offers a wealth of exciting things to see and do, from iconic attractions to outdoor activities. Here are some of the top attractions that you won't want to miss!
Visit the White House
While you can't actually enter the White House, you can take a self-guided tour of the grounds and snap some photos of the iconic facade.
The Smithsonian Museums
The Smithsonian Institution is home to 19 museums, galleries, and the National Zoo. Whether you're interested in art, history, or science, the museums offer something for everyone. Some of the most popular Smithsonian museums include the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Portrait Gallery.
National Museum of American history
The First Ladies’ inaugural dress exhibit was one of my personal favorites at the National Museum of American history. This exhibit also included pieces of china from some of the presidential administrations.
The National Archives Museum
The National Archives were fascinating, and seeing the actual constitution was surreal. Don't forget - no pictures!
The Monuments and Memorials
No visit to DC is complete without seeing the city's monuments and memorials. With their mighty stone pillars, delicate engravings, and somber yet heroic sculptures, I was in awe. All within walking distance, the monuments were the highlight of my trip. My favorites were the Lincoln Memorial, the WWII Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Washington Monument.
The Lincoln Memorial
This iconic monument was built to honor the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln. It's a great place to reflect on American history and enjoy stunning views of the city.
The National Mall
The National Mall is an iconic green space stretching for two miles between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capitol Building. Here, you can explore a variety of monuments, memorials, and museums, as well as take in stunning views of the city skyline.
The National Gallery of Art
A close second on my highlights, right up with the Monuments, was the Washington National Art Gallery. This incredible museum houses a world-class collection of artworks, from ancient to modern. Whether you're a painting, sculpture, or photography fan, you'll find something to admire here. From Monet to Dega, this has one of the most spectacular art collections in not only the country but the world. It was so stunning we got stuck in there for an entire day from opening to close.
Washington National Cathedral
My husband's favorite stop on our DC adventure was the Washington National Cathedral. Washington National Cathedral is an iconic landmark of the nation's capital. Located in Northwest Washington, DC, it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. The cathedral has a long and rich history, built in 1907 and dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. It is a Gothic-style structure built in the tradition of classic European cathedrals. It is one of the largest and most impressive churches in the world, standing at the height of 300 feet and with a length of 600 feet. The interior is breathtaking, with its ornate details, including stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and marble pillars. The cathedral is also home to many important national events, including the funerals of presidents, state funerals, the National Prayer Breakfast, and royal visits. It is also the site of special events such as concerts, lectures, and services. The cathedral is also home to a number of significant monuments, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which honors those who lost their lives in World War I, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We took a tour, came just in time for an organ demonstration, and returned after dinner for evensong. The music was spectacular.
Capitol Hill is one of the most iconic neighborhoods in the United States. Located in the heart of Washington, DC, it is home to the US Capitol building and a host of other important national landmarks. The area is steeped in history, and its streets are lined with many of the city's most impressive monuments, memorials, and government buildings. For visitors, Capitol Hill offers a variety of attractions, including the US Capitol building, the National Mall, and the Smithsonian Museum. Tourists can explore the area's many museums, galleries, and monuments or take a walking tour of the historic buildings and monuments that line the streets. Capitol Hill is also home to a vibrant nightlife, with many of the city's hottest restaurants, bars, and clubs.
Check out the National Zoo
The National Zoo is home to a variety of animals, from pandas to tigers. It's a great place to take the kids for a fun and educational day out.
The Museum of the Bible
Located just blocks away from the National Mall and the White House, the Museum of the Bible offers eight floors of interactive exhibits, displays, and educational experiences that tell the story of the Bible and its influence on our world. The museum's mission is to invite all people to engage with the Bible through a unique and interactive museum experience. Visitors can explore the Bible's history, its impact on world cultures, its influence on art, music, and literature, and the ways it has changed the lives of millions of people.
My husband and I visited DC in October, and the weather was freezing and drizzly when we arrived, but as soon as we went to Marshalls and got hats, coats, and scarves, the next two days were sunny and in the 60s & 70s. When you go to DC, check the weather, especially if you are going in the Spring or the Fall. Weather can still be very uncertain at those times of the year. However, the most beautiful time to visit is in April, during the blooming of the cherry blossoms.
Where to Stay
I recommend staying in Georgetown. This way, you can walk anywhere and don't rent a car, just uber. The city is so beautiful that walking is an event in itself.
We started our adventure by staying our first two nights at the Westin in the heart of Washington, within a 10-minute drive of the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and the White House. This 4-star hotel is 1.2 mi from Capital One Arena and 1.3 mi from National Mall. This Westin had a tiny yet cozy room and a great bathroom with a soaking tub.
Then we moved to the Glover Park inn for some different scenery. Glover was artsier with a spacious room, a lovely dining area, and a shabby chic vibe. On the downside, it was further out from all the attractions except for the Washington National Cathedral.
We ended our adventure by staying in the Royal Sonesta. This spot was in another artsy nook of DC that had a very cool 70s vibe, and our room had a super nice bathroom.
The three other hotels we recommend are the River Inn, the Lombardy, and the Modus Hotel.
We ate some of the best food I had all year when we were in DC, from GCDC grilled cheese sandwiches to Chef Geoffs for a fabulous outdoor lunch, Circa for dinner, and Captain Cookie & the Milk Man for a late-night snack; we ate our way through DC and loved every minute of it. Some other note-worthy restaurants were Bindaas & Juniper, Roti (lunch), North Italia (dinner), Tonic At Quigley's (lunch) & GW Delicatessen (lunch).
The National Theatre & The Kennedy Center
There are many theaters in DC, but my two favorites are The National Theatre and The Kennedy Center. We went to the National Theatre on this trip to see the Tina Turner Musical, and the show was spectacular. The entire production was phenomenal, from the lights, sound, and actors. This was, hands down, one of my favorite theaters of all time because it was smaller than the Kennedy center but tactfully designed to be just as grand. The entire staff was so friendly, and we sat in the center bottom row. It was the best seat in the house!
If you happen to be traveling to DC in April for the Cherry Blossoms, and like the weather, The National Theatre has some must-see shows coming up; Jagged Little Pill (March 14-26), My Fair Lady (April 6- 9), Disney's Aladdin (April 19-30), and Beetlejuice (May 16-28). Walk over early, and you can visit the WWI memorial, which sits right outside.
As soon as we left DC, I was dying to go back. From the tall, proud monuments and rich history to the melting pot of people and the exciting city life, I could even see myself loving DC as home.