Over four years ago one of my best friends moved away from Louisiana to start a new job and life in D.C. It sucks not being able to hang out like we used to, but the trips up there almost make up for it. For being a huge history nerd and avid wine drinker, you would think the D.C. / Virginia area would be at the top of my vacation list. But it was never on my radar until my friend moved there. I thought we would eventually run out of things to do but after 7 visits we still find something new and exciting. You could spend an entire week alone just visiting all of the museums! The upside to the DC area is that a lot of the attractions are free. The downside is that everything I’m going to recommend is spaced out. There are things to do in Alexandria, Arlington, DC, out west towards Shenandoah, and south towards Fredericksburg and Mount Vernon. So you will need a car to get around to some of these places. For the attractions in DC itself you can get around with the DC Metro.
What to Do:
- White House – The White House offers tours but you have to plan it weeks, sometimes months in advance. Contact your congressional office to set up the tour. Or you can just take the obligatory selfie in front of the gate like I did.
- Monument/Memorial hop the Mall, spread out across two miles from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial.
- Washington Monument / World War 2 Memorial – If you’re feeling ballsy, take the elevator up 555 feet to the top of the monument.
- US Capitol / Old Supreme Court Chamber – One of my favorite sights. The Capitol Dome is encircled by murals and paintings depicting significant historical events in American History. You’ll also get to see the Old Supreme Court Chamber, which served as the first US Senate Chamber from 1800-1806 and the courtroom for the Supreme Court from 1810-1860. So much history was made in this room. From Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration to Samuel Morse sending the first Morse coded message. Contact your congressman to witness both chambers in session.
- Old Post Office and Clock Tower – Another one of my favorites. Take an elevator to the clock tower to see a panoramic view of the city.
- Trump International Hotel – Love him or hate him but he sure knows how to build a beautiful hotel.
- Petersen House – The house where Lincoln spent his last remaining moments is located across the street from the Ford Theater where he was shot and now serves as a museum.
- Museum of American History – My favorite displays are Thomas Edison’s Notebooks and the Hope Diamond
- National Archives Museum – Home to the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights
- Nationals game – Is there anything more Merica than the nation’s past time in its capital?
- Arlington National Cemetery – The final resting place of JFK, John Glenn, and more than 400,000 fallen heroes that have fought in American wars dating back to the Civil War and home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an unidentified American soldier from World War I that is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by Tomb Guard sentinels. The changing of the guard takes place every hour on the hour.
- Pentagon 9/11 Memorial
- Mount Vernon – Located on the banks of the Potomac River, it is the historic home and tomb of our first president
- Hiking at Shenandoah National Park / Skyline Drive
- Chateau O’Brien at Northpoint Winery or any of the nearly 300 Virginia wineries
- Ice skating at Harris Pavilion in Manassas, Virginia (avoid the crowds in DC)
- Great Falls Park – Overlooks the Great Falls of the Potomac River. George Washington tried building a canal around the falls but it wasn’t a success. Remnants of the canal are still visible.
- Walk around historic downtown Fredericksburg
If You Have Time:
- Skiing at Timberline Four Seasons in Davis, West Virginia (~3 hr drive)
- Spend a summer weekend at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and tour one of my favorite breweries, Dogfish Head! Try the Midas Touch! (~3 hr drive)
What to Eat & Drink:
Famous Dave’s BBQ (Alexandria) – St. Louis-N-Baby Ribs Combo
Thaiphoon at Pentagon Row (Arlington) – Pad Thai or Drunken Noodle
Port City Brewery (Alexandria) – Optimal Wit
B DC Penn Quarter Restaurant (DC) – Breakfast Burger or Smokehouse Burger
Capital Ale House (Fredericksburg) – Allagash White with a Giant Bavarian Pretzel
Ben’s Chili Bowl (DC) – Original Chili Half-Smoke, voted DC’s Signature Dish and most popular menu item
Sticky Rice (DC) – Tater Tots paired with Sushi, yeah you read that right.
Vermilion – Little on the pricey side but a great date night spot that was voted one of the best restaurants in DC
Casa Rosada – Handmade Argentinian style gelato
- One of the best times of year to visit DC is to witness the Cherry Blossoms – While the average date for the peak bloom is April 4 but can happen as early as March 15 and as late as April 18.
- A lot of the attractions are free
- DC area is spaced out, a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes
- Some attractions require reservations in advance
- Summer days can be as hot and humid as Nola
- Buy a SmarTrip card and use the Metro to get around DC.
What to do Next Time:
- International Spy Museum. I’m a huge James Bond fan so this is kind of required. Home to the largest collection of espionage artifacts in the world
- Ford’s Theater – See exhibits that display rare artifacts from Lincoln’s assassination or experience a live performance in a historic theater
- Monticello – Take a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s plantation located in Charlottesville, Virginia
- Attend a free jazz concert at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden on Friday nights from May through August featuring some of Washington’s top musicians
- Attend Truckeroo, a monthly food truck festival held in April thru October
- Tour and eat at the Gadsby’s Tavern, a restored 18th century tavern that George Washington once attended