I can’t think of a better way to spend President’s Day than by taking a quick trip to DC (unless there’s a beach in Greece involved, because then I might reconsider.)
Ben and I drove down to DC last Saturday for the long holiday weekend (lol jk I worked from my DC office on Monday, hence the 48 hours…) and it was a quick, but super fun trip. We trekked to some museums in the snow/sleet, hit up the monuments and the Capitol building, drank margaritas at an awesome Mexican restaurant in the heart of DC’s bar scene, said ‘cheers’ at a rooftop bar overlooking the Washington Monument, and visited Union Market, which also lead me to an amazing coffee spot nearby. We both owe a huge ‘thank you’ to Ben’s friend, Sam, who was an amazing host and tour guide! It definitely helps seeing a new city with a local who knows the ins and outs (and some fun facts about the Presidents, which made our tour even more interesting.)
Anyway, despite being a big, fast-paced city kind of gal, I really liked the eclectic feel of DC. There’s a great foodie scene, clearly, an awesome drinking scene, and there’s so much to do between all of the museums and historic sites. Not to mention the actual look of the city. The area around Capitol Hill felt really beautiful and sophisticated, yet as you ventured out towards say, the U Street Corridor, the buildings were stunning and had so much character. Ben and I agreed that it felt a bit like the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood in Montreal! I’d really love to head back down there to explore some more (and hopefully stuff my face at Baked & Wired.) Without further ado, I bring you some itinerary ideas for spending a quick weekend in our nation’s capital.
Renwick Gallery: If the awesome artwork at this National Historic Landmark doesn’t sell you, the stunning building will. The outside is incredible, but there’s a beautiful carpeted staircase that leads to the gallery inside. Above the grandiose stairway is the most stunning light display. It’s closed from February 20th through March 29th for an exhibition installation, but it’s right across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, so if you end up at the Renwick and realize you can’t get in, just cross the street and LOL at how small the White House is IRL.
National Portrait Gallery: Did you know that you can visit any Smithsonian museum for a grand total of $0? I know. You mean they *actually* want to encourage people to explore arts and sciences? I couldn’t believe it either. Anyway, the paintings in the National Portrait Gallery are absolutely phenomenal, and you should definitely spend some time wandering through it on a self-guided tour. ICYMI: President Obama’s portrait is now on display in America’s Presidents and you should make time to see it. It’s phenomenal. TIP: DO NOT wait in line for it. Sure, you get some one-on-one time with Obama, but you can literally get just as good of a view and snap a pic as you pass by it on your own. Michelle Obama’s portrait is also up, but I’m honestly not a fan of it. Nonetheless, you should see it for yourself and again, SKIP THE LINE.
National Air and Space Museum– Full disclosure: we didn’t hit the Air and Space Museum on this trip, but I’ve been before and it’s so freakin’ cool. Plan to spend a few hours there and you should definitely do the flight simulation. Watch out: those 360 degree barrel rolls are tougher to manage than you’d think!
Say ‘hello’ to Abraham Lincoln (and check out the other memorials along the way!): I didn’t think people travel to DC and skip the monuments, but in case you were planning on it, I’d highly suggest rethinking this. You’ll spend a lot of time on your feet, but it’s worth it. I’d try to hit all of the memorials along the Mall, like the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial (didn’t do it this trip, but have in the past!) The Lincoln Memorial and the view from the steps are awesome. From there, we headed to the Jefferson Memorial, which is incredible and offers another great view of the Washington Monument.
Fun fact: Washington was obsessed with all things Egyptian, hence the design of the memorial. ANOTHER FACT: the colors of the stones actually start to change about 1/3 of the way up because they stopped construction during the Civil War. Yep, it’s that old. Shout out to Ben for that fun fact. It’s also worth going to the Lincoln Memorial at night and it’s easy to (illegally?) park on the street along the right side of the memorial.
Visit Capitol Hill: If you’re not familiar with DC, the National Mall is a huge shopping mall with some of the world’s most luxurious stores. Lol, jk, but I totally thought it was an actual mall when I visited back in high school. The Lincoln Memorial marks one end of the mall and the Capitol building marks the other. It’s quite a long grassy stretch in between and it’s lined with tons of museums and government buildings. We saw the Capitol dome from the distance during the day, but we walked around the building at night, which I’d recommend since it’s beautiful when it’s lit up against the dark sky. If you can manage to get a picture of the dome’s reflection in the ground display around the front of the building, hit a girl up and LMK how you did it.
Union Market: A fierce competitor to NYC’s Vanderbilt Hall or City Kitchen, Union Market is an amazing food hall with an industrial warehouse vibe. There is literally something for everybody here and I would suggest getting some fresh Kombucha on tap! Make sure you check out Salt and Sundry, too. It’s basically a better version of Anthro! The artwork outside of Union Market is amazing, too. The George Washington mural is down the block, but on the way to the nearest metro stop. TIP: It’s closed on Mondays, so don’t waste your time.
POV Rooftop at the W: It’s always rooftop season in Dana-world. Hearing so many great things about it coupled with the fact that I’m always down for a mid-day glass of rose with a view, I couldn’t resist a quick visit to POV. The views are actually really cool since it overlooks the White House and the Washington Monument. Depending on the weather, they may lower the plastic to keep the heat in, but it’s still worth checking out!
El Rey: If you’re looking for an awesome scene where you can sip on some evening margaritas and nom on some tacos, this spot is for you. This taqueria/Mexican beer garden hybrid will likely crowded on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, but it’s worth posting up at the bar (or wherever else you can find some space) and splitting a pitcher of margaritas! The back patio is where the party’s at and it’s heated during the winter (bonus!)
Busboys and Poets: This is a really unique bookstore and restaurant where not just food comes to the table. Busboys and Poets, which is named after Langston Hughes, is a very casual space where food, culture, politics, and social justice mix. The menu is huge and features tons of options, so it’s great for those difficult-to-please types. I’d highly recommend the salmon and the nachos NOM.
Bub and Pop’s: This low-key sandwich joint means BUSINESS. Fact: these sandwiches will be messy. Fact: they will also make you feel uncomfortably full. Fact: they’re worth it. Bub and Pop’s is a family-owned spot with a quirky, retro feel that’s bound to be a crowd-pleaser if you’re on the hunt for a quick lunch spot. Ben and Sam got the cheeseteak (the family is actually from Philly, so they know their stuff!) and I got the meatball bolognese.
Pluma by Blue Bird : Not only am I always on the hunt for a rooftop, but I’m always looking for a unique spot where I can get my hands on a caffeinated beverage. If you, too, sympathize with the constant need to find a picturesque coffee shop, I’d suggest checking out Pluma by Blue Bird Bakery. It’s about a 5 minute walk from Union Market and the blue tile floors are to die for. The rustic brown tables against the tiles make it a no-brainer for Instagram. Oh yeah, and the coffee is awesome.