Washington D.C., the U.S. capital, was named in honor of the first President of the United States, George Washington. Whether you’re a history fanatic or just like to learn and explore a new city and it’s culture, Washington D.C. is a fantastic place to visit!
As an American, you learn about your country’s history as part of the curriculum through grade school and even high school. All of which is very important information, however, some things were forgotten along the years (don’t let my history teachers know). Nonetheless, I actually regained alot of my previous history knowledge and more during my recent visit to Washington, D.C. It was so much more incredible to learn history this way than by reading a book.
There is SO much to do in DC and it is literally impossible to do it all during one visit. Whether you’re planning to visit over a long weekend or during the week, I guarantee that you won’t run out of fun things to do. For those of you interested in visiting or planning a trip to DC, I have put together a little guide that includes some of my recommended things to do, see and places to eat.
Where we stayed
JW Marriott |1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004
I can’t not say enough about this hotel! The location couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s located on Pennsylvania Avenue and central to many great restaurants, The National Mall, White House, museums and more. There is a Starbucks conveniently located in the lobby, as well as a bar/lounge. The staff were all very helpful any accommodating during our stay. We had a newly renovated room with a beautiful view of the city.
TIP: Washington, D.C. is a very walk-able city, but you can easily use public transportation to get around if needed. DC traffic is pretty intense, to say the least, so if you can avoid driving, especially during rush hour, that’s probably best. If you visit on a weekend you shouldn’t have too much of an issue and using Uber is great way to get around to places you would prefer not to walk to. With that being said, prepare to do a lot of walking. Wear comfortable shoes and attire appropriate for the season in which you are visiting.
Depending on your walking pace, you may not get a chance to visit all the places on your list in one day. Make a list of places you’re most interested in seeing and head to those first.
We flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in the early morning. Our hotel was approximately 4 miles from the airport, which was a plus! We decided to take an Uber, which cost about $12. We were able to drop our bags off with the bell hop and began to explore DC.
Food was necessary before heading out for a big day in DC. No one wants to be around me when I’m hangry! Lol! First stop was POV Rooftop, located on the top of the W hotel. This trendy rooftop bar wowed me with its spectacular views of the White House and Washington Monument.
Arlington Cemetery | Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, VA 22211
The country’s most famous cemetery is made up of 620 acres just across the Potomac River, Arlington National Cemetery has served veterans of every U.S. conflict through present day. We had a car for our visit and ended up driving to the cemetery from DC, which took about 30 minutes. My husband’s grandfather served as a Marine during the Vietnam War and was buried in Arlington. We were able to drive in and visit his grave during our visit.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of headstones for service members, there are several dozen historically significant memorials on the grounds.
JFK Grave site
After President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, he became only the second U.S. president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The eternal flame is the centerpiece of his resting place, and two deceased Kennedy children are buried alongside the President, as well as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who was laid to rest in 1994.
Tomb of the Unknown Solider
One of the must-see sites in Washington D.C. is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. A white sarcophagus in the plaza of the Memorial Amphitheater pays tribute to an unidentified American soldier from World War I.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and in any weather by Tomb Guard sentinels. Sentinels, all volunteers, are considered to be the best of the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.
Don’t miss the changing of the guards! This occurs daily every hour on the hour! I recommend you experience this during your visit.
Marine Corps War Memorial | National Park Service George Washington Memorial Parkway, Arlington, VA 22209
We stopped at this iconic monument after leaving The Arlington Cemetery as it is located across the Potomac River, just north of the entrance to the Cemetery. The monument is based on a now famous photograph taken by a war correspondent. The memorial depicts six soldiers valiantly raising the American flag at Iwo Jima, one of the most dramatic battles of WWII.
Fun fact: The flag flying from that flagpole is a real American flag.
Filomena Restaurant | 1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20007
After all that walking we needed some carbs! We ended our first day in DC with dinner at Filomena. If you love Italian food you MUST eat here!
Filomena restaurant makes their pasta fresh daily; you can see see women making all different types of pastas as you enter the restaurant. It’s a very popular place in Georgetown, especially since a couple of presidents have visited in the past; Hence, make sure you have a reservation.
All the food was fantastic and very authentic. To end the meal, the restaurant gives you two complimentary vases of Sambucca and Amaretto. Very pleasant way to end an awesome meal.
The White House | Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
No trip to DC is complete without a visit to this famous address! If you want an exclusive tour then make sure to plan ahead and you might be able to book a tour of the White House. Keep in mind these tours are sometimes booked 3 months in advance and fill up quickly. Unfortunately, when I tried to book a tour it was fully booked for the days I was visiting.
US Capitol | Tours of the Capitol allow you to see the Crypt, the Rotunda and National Statuary Hall. This tour must also be booked in advance, however it is free of charge. We weren’t able to do the White House tour, however had the chance to participate in visiting the US Capitol, which was a great experience.
Old Ebbitt Grill | 675 15th Street, NW Washington, DC 20005
We grabbed a bite to eat at D.C.’s oldest bar. The Old Ebbitt Grill was founded in 1856 and a staple in this historic city. If you don’t have time for a meal then stop by for a cocktail.
The National Mall | 900 Ohio Drive SW Washington, DC 20024
The Mall is in the heart of downtown and home to the country’s most famous monuments and memorials. We enjoyed walking the pedestrian-friendly Mall and stopping at the various monuments and memorials. Plan for about 2-3 hours of touring this area, depending on your pace.
What’s great about DC is that its monuments and memorials are FREE and open to the public 24 hours a day! DC is really a great city to visit for those on a budget because of that fact that most things are of no cost.
If you are interested in a guided tour you can book a free walking tour here. At the end of the tour, be sure to tip your tour guide. These walks are excellent and led by history experts.
The Washington Monument
We began our tour of The Mall at The Washington monument, one of the nation’s most recognizable structures. It’s the first thing we saw in the distance driving into DC and even at our first lunch spot, POV Rooftop.
The Monument was built to honor George Washington and is made of marble, granite and blue-stone gneiss. It’s the world’s tallest structure made of stone and the tallest obelisk, at 555 feet tall.
Built in 1884, an elevator was added to the monument in 1889 which shuttles tourists to the top of the monument to this day. The National Park Service operates tours to the top, however it is currently closed until 2019, so if you’re looking to soar to the top you will have to just wait.
Abraham Lincoln Memorial | 2 Lincoln Memorial Cir NW, Washington, DC 20037
This profound monument honors one of the country’s most revered presidents. On the walls are memorable passages from the Gettysburg Address (Lincoln’s most famous speech) and his Second Inaugural Address. A mini museum in the adjoining chamber explores Lincoln’s life pre-presidency. But its main and most popular feature: the 19-foot-tall statue of a seated President Lincoln, arguably, the most photographed sight and selfie backdrop in town.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial | 5 Henry Bacon Dr NW, Washington, DC 20245
The memorial includes the names of over 58,000 servicemen and women who gave their lives in service in the Vietnam Conflict. The memorial also includes “The Three Servicemen” statue and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. Visiting this Memorial was very special as we were able to find my husband’s grandfathers name on the wall. We were able to leave with a sketch of his name. The tradition involves placing a sheet of paper over the recessed lettering and using the side of a pencil or piece of charcoal to create the sketch.
Korean War Memorial | 900 Ohio Dr SW, Washington, DC 20024
The Korean War Veterans Memorial was dedicated in 1995. Its Wall of Remembrance and 19 stainless steel statues commemorate the sacrifices of the millions of Americans and allied partners who fought during the Korean War.
Founding Farmers | 1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20006
This restaurant is SOOOOOOOOO good! We had dinner here with a group of 6 people and we all left beyond pleased with our experience.
Washington DC has about 70 museums and galleries. Our final day in DC we decided to explore some of these Museums. Depending on what your interest are and your walking pace you may be able to see several in a day. You won’t be able to see them all so choose your absolute favorites. Side note: All museums in DC are free.
We were able to explore a few, which I listed below. Click here for other options.
Smithsonian Institution Building, The Castle|1000 Jefferson Dr SW, Washington, DC 20560
The Smithsonian Castle, officially named the Smithsonian Institution Building, houses the administrative offices and the Information Center for the world class museums in Washington DC. The Castle is a Victorian style, red sandstone building built in 1855. It was originally the home of the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, Joseph Henry, and his family and is the oldest building on the National Mall.
This museum takes you through the history of the United States over the decades.
National Air and Space Museum | 6th St. & Independence Ave. SW Washington, DC 20013
The Air and Space Museums pays an ode to the history of flight and space exploration. Be sure to see the IMAX movie and simulated space rides.
Firefly | 1310 New Hampshire Ave NW Washington, DC 20036
After several hours of museum tours we had worked up quite the appetite. We headed to Firefly restaurant for lunch. They offer a great weekend brunch with cheap mimosas ($3) and great food.
Washington National Cathedral | 3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016
The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington, is a cathedral of the Episcopal Church. The Cathedral is the sixth largest in the world, second largest in the United States.The top of the tower is the highest point in DC. The National Cathedral was completed in 1990 and is the culmination of a two-century-long plan for a majestic Gothic style cathedral. We were able to tour the inside, which was absolutely stunning. You will find over 200 beautifully stained glass windows. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend stopping by the Cathedral.
Occidental Grill & Bar | 1475 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20004
We ended our trip to DC at the Occidental Grill & Bar and were SO happy we did! This is a restaurant that is not to be missed. Steeped in tradition and 110 years of decadence, this DC mainstay has a menu that will tantalize your taste buds with locally sourced items prepared with attention to detail. Occidental has been a gathering place for the nation’s political power brokers, sports figures and celebrities.
I hope this travel guide will help you in your visit to Washington, D.C.
Have you ever been to Washington, D.C.? What did you do during your visit?