Last month, I had the chance to play tourist in our nation’s capitol — the beautiful city of Washington, D.C.! Although the trip was business-focused (I was attending FinCon, a conference for financial brands and influencers), I flew up a few days early to avoid Hurricane Dorian and enjoy the long weekend before the conference began. I hadn’t been to D.C. since my 8th grade field trip, so I was really excited to explore the city as an adult and forge new memories!
Because I work a traditional 9-5 and am not a full-time travel blogger, I don’t typically have the chance to stay a new city for long, especially since my job is so heavily focused on our local community. However, this trip was a little different — I spent 8 days in my temporary new home, where I really had the chance to get to know the metro system, find a few favorite restaurants I kept coming back to, and fall into a routine while working remotely. I really loved spending time in this city and can’t wait for my next visit!
For those planning a trip to Washington, check out my guide for creating your perfect D.C. itinerary!
Where I Stayed
Because I added a few days onto my trip last minute, I ended up staying at two different hotels. I absolutely fell in love with The George Hotel, a boutique hotel in the Capitol Hill area with beautiful and eclectic decor. The rooms were beautiful and the staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. Plus, the rooms had animal print robes and yoga mats! (This was by far one of my favorite hotels I have ever stayed in.) For the conference portion of the trip, I stayed at the Washington Hilton in DuPont Circle. I loved getting to know the DuPont neighborhood during my time there!
Where I Visited
- Smithsonian Museums
If you didn’t visit a Smithsonian, did you even really visit D.C.? The Smithsonian Museums are free to the public and open almost every day (you can check out the full list of museums and their operating hours here). I had a blast exploring the Portrait Gallery on my first night in town, where I visited President Obama and saw portraits of other important American figures, like Toni Morrison, Michelle Obama, Dear Abby and even LL Cool J! The Natural History Museum was a must-see, with the hall of mammals, the Hope Diamond, exhibition of early humans (including Lucy!) and more. The Hirshhorn includes modern art and had an interesting exhibition on manifesto, with videos acted out by Cate Blanchett, and the sculpture garden included one of Yayoi Kusama’s famous pumpkins. Although the Air and Space Museum was going through some renovations when I was there, it’s a great stop for anyone interested in our space history. I also had the chance to visit the American Indian Museum for a pre-conference event and would love to spend more time there on a future trip.
As a former student journalist, I couldn’t pass up a trip to the Newseum! This museum, which will unfortunately be closing at the end of 2019, is dedicated to news and media. It features pieces of the Berlin Wall, an exhibition on Stonewall, a powerful 9/11 memorial, and my favorite, the Seriously Funny exhibition with Jon Stewart and other comedians who focus on news. Give yourself at least half a day to visit this museum. The exhibitions are a powerful reminder of the importance of our freedom of press, and just how much our First Amendment rights go hand-in-hand with advocacy for progress. It’s disappointing that the museum will have to close this year, but I hope they can find the proper funding to reopen someday. In today’s climate, the lessons we can learn from the Newseum are more important than ever.
- U.S. Capitol Tour
You can book a free tour of the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center online here. It’s a quick and easy process! You’ll watch a short video and receive a guided tour of the Crypt, Rotunda, and Statutory Hall. The guides all give the tours their own fun spin, and you’ll get to learn a lot about our government and nation’s history. You can separately book tours of the Senate and House Galleries, also online.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
You’ll want to give yourself at least 2-3 hours to visit the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and while entry is free, you may need to get a timed ticket for admission at certain times of the year. When you arrive, you’ll take an elevator to the fourth floor, and make your way down as you go through the exhibits. The experience is a sobering one, but it is so important to learn about the Holocaust and visit memorials like these to remember that these dark events happened not long ago and that we need to prevent them from happening again in the future.
- Library of Congress
The Library of Congress can actually be accessed via underground tunnel directly from the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, and also offers free admission. This is the research arm of Congress and the largest library in the world. I loved visiting Thomas Jefferson’s library and touring the Shall Not Be Denied exhibition on women’s suffrage.
- National Symphony Orchestra
For Labor Day Weekend, I had the chance to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play a free concert on the lawn of the Capitol! It was such a fun way to spend the evening and listen to talented musicians play American classics. If you have the opportunity to hear the National Symphony Orchestra play while you’re there, I highly suggest you go!
In addition to the above attractions and museums, I also recommend wandering through the National Mall and visiting the Washington Monument, walking along the Tidal Basin, and visiting some of the other monuments and memorials, like Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. I also had the chance to explore the Georgetown area and do a little shopping!
Where I Ate
I loved the food in D.C., and really appreciated just how easy it was to find places to eat while dealing with food sensitivities. For all of my fellow autoimmune sufferers out there, there are places you can actually enjoy eating here and still feel well enough to sightsee afterward!
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café
Located in the DuPont area, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café is the perfect spot to grab breakfast — and did I mention it’s inside an independent bookstore? Enjoy delicious food and indulge in some shopping afterward! 🙂
CAVA was one of those restaurants I just kept coming back to! Those who know me in person are aware of just how much I love a good “make your own” type of restaurant, and CAVA was no different. This Mediterranean-style restaurant allows you to build your own salad, rice bowl, or pita, along with some great spreads, proteins and toppings. It gets a little crazy at lunch time, but definitely worth the visit! There are several locations throughout D.C.
sweetgreen has locations all throughout the country, but because they don’t have any restaurants in Florida, they were new to me! This restaurant, like CAVA, offers a make-your-own option, along with a variety of menu items that include warm bowls and salads. I ordered the seasonal Curry Chickpea Bowl. This restaurant has plenty of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.
Alas, another “build your own” restaurant! Merzi is a fast casual Indian restaurant where you can also build your own bowl, choosing your size and base, veggies, sauce, and proteins. I enjoyed the curried cauliflower and potatoes with tikka masala and chicken. Even their “light” bowls are incredibly filling!
- Alero Restaurant
Located in the DuPont area, this Mexican restaurant was exactly what I needed on my first night at the new hotel! I loved Alero‘s pollo a la plancha dish, and if you’re there on a weekend, you can enjoy their brunch buffet as well! The restaurant has plenty of weekday specials, depending on what you’re in the mood for.
- Bethesda Bagels
Also in DuPont, Bethesda Bagels is an important stop for bagel lovers like me. I visited this location twice — first for a hearty egg and cheese bagel on asiago, and second for a cinnamon raising bagel (classic) with cinnamon butter. Not my healthiest stop on the trip, but absolutely worth the visit.
- Founding Farmers
During our time in Georgetown, my cousin and I took a trip to Founding Farmers for some delicious farm-to-table fare. With soups, sandwiches, salads, homemade pastas (!) and other favorites, you really can’t go wrong here.
This DuPont burger joint offers a (you guessed it) build-your-own option, along with the most delicious waffle fries you’ll ever have. Vegans and vegetarians should note that there is an entire vegetarian side of the menu, and for those who avoid gluten, there are plenty of gluten free options (including the waffle fries) as well.
- Mission DuPont
Mission DuPont is an Instagram-Worthy restaurant with twinkle lights and outdoor seating, along with delicious Mexican food and sangria. I went during happy hour and absolutely loved the crispy green chicken, which also happened to be gluten-free!
- Hamilton’s Bar & Grill
This bar is closer to the Capitol Hill area and had the perfect comfort food on my first night in town. I watched college football at the bar while enjoying the Asian Chicken Salad and a delicious (but strong!) blue bayou drink.
I can’t wait for my next trip to D.C. to continue exploring this amazing city!
Have you visited? What are some of your favorite spots?