Washington, D.C. -is a city that is very dear to my heart. After spending just two months living in Georgetown three summers ago, I realized that no matter how long you spend there, you’ll never do it all. There is so much to see, eat, drink, explore – the list goes on.
Being the national’s capital city, there is ALWAYS something happening and something new to explore. It’s also a place that’s wonderful to visit any time of the year, with seasonality shaping what the locals do with their time.
Aside from all of the amazing sights and landmarks to see, restaurants to experience, and bars to hop, there are so many reasons to spend a weekend in Washington, D.C. if you have a few days to travel somewhere.
For starters, flights are generally inexpensive to DCA. I have yet to spend over $200 on a flight. If you’re a traveling couple, two flights for under $400 is a pretty great catch. Upon landing, you can fill your weekend with an itinerary full of free things to do. That’s right, you heard me! The majority of the museums on the National Mall are without charge to enter.
You also don’t have to worry about transportation whatsoever. Their metro system is the easiest to figure out, in my opinion. DCA is right on the blue line, so you can land and pop onto the metro to get almost any destination in DC (with the exception of Georgetown because they have no metro stop in their neighborhood).
If you’re good with walking, you can get to most of your destinations simply by putting on your walking shoes and heading off. This last visit, my sister and I only took the metro to and from the airport (though we did average about 25k steps a day, approximately 12 miles!)
You don’t even need to take off a ton of time off from work or school to get to know Washington, DC. In just three days, you can see multiple museums, all of the monuments, dine like a king and do whatever else your heart desires.
Here’s my itinerary of things to do for a weekend in Washington, D.C.:
Day 1: Union Market & The Monuments
Bring your walking shoes, because you’ll easily get your daily 10,000 steps in on this day of exploration.
Take the red line to the NoMa/Gallaudet U stop and take a 10 minute walk towards the coolest market you’ll have ever seen – Union Market. This place has it all. Enter the inside-outside market to peruse the stands of some of DC’s greatest cuisine, boutiques, farmers markets, specialty drinks, juices, and more.
There are some shops that stay there, but others rotate out so you can go frequently and have totally different options. The vibe is hip. Folks of all ages can be spotted enjoying a beer at noon at some of the spots. My sister, Sydney, and I chose these amazing empanadas, channeling our Colombian roots!
After looking around and grabbing a bite to eat and sipping on your drink of choice, it’s time to head to the monuments!
Everyone knows to check out the main attractions – the Lincoln, Washington Monument, and the Jefferson. But there was a LOT more to see than I originally knew of.
They’re all in the same general vicinity, but make sure you have a couple of hours to leisurely take in all that these monuments represent and tell you about America’s past, present, and future.
Here are the ones you don’t want to miss:
The Vietnam Memorial
The Vietnam Memorial’s granite walls bears 58,000 names that people come daily to make pencil rubbings, leave flowers under, and deliver letters to. Maya Ying Lin, a 21-year-old Yale University student, won the nationwide competition with this abstract design that stands in between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It is made up of two walls in an angle. This memorial is very powerful and something you don’t want to miss.
World War II Memorial
This is one of my favorite memorials on the Mall. It is a large, granite arches surround a serene pool and fountain. Each arch represents the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war. You will also see the fifty-six wreath-crowned pillars that represent the US and territories, as well as a central wall that displays 4,000 gold stars, each signifying 100 lost to war.
This memorial is my favorite in all of DC. I remember how awe-struck I was the first time I got to see this in person. Thinking about all of the historic events that took place here makes it all the more majestic to visit. When you are standing at the top and looking out, you peer directly over the water and align with the Washington Monument. It’s a great view of the monuments and memorials surrounding the area.
The Washington Monument is nearly impossible to miss. It stands tall between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial, but is off-center between the White House and the Jefferson Memorial, interestingly. From this location, you can see the grand Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial.
After all of that walking and sight-seeing, it’s time to unwind with an elegant cocktail in hand among the elite of Georgetown. Friday evenings are a fun time to bar hop since everybody is just off of work and excited to celebrate the beginning of yet another great weekend in the Capital.
We went ahead and put our names in for dinner at the renown Farmers Fishers Bakers, a hot spot for brunch, dinner, and cocktails right on the Potomac River. They have a menu filled with all sorts of goodies. Our favorite thing we had was our appetizer; kettle corn served in a huge pot to be eaten with chopsticks. Yum!
Day 2: A Tour of History and of Dupont Circle
One of the best things to do in Washington, DC is, of course, going to all of the museums. And better yet, they’re free! Well, a good amount of them anyway.
When I spent a summer in DC I mostly frequented the museums of American History, Natural History, and Air and Space. But this time around we tried some we hadn’t been to before; the Holocaust Museum, the Hishhorn Museum, the US Botanical Gardens, and the National Art Gallery.
The Holocaust Museum
The Holocaust Museum is hands-down the most impactful walk-through. It is the activity I am the most glad we did, and would recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately, you can only go on the first floor to a couple exhibits because the second and third are for doners only, though you can contribute $20 and become a doner when you’re there. There are theaters that feature screenings throughout the day, too. A somber but powerful experience, this museum is a must-see. Just have something light-hearted planned for afterwards.
The Hishhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
This museum is modern from the outside-in. Self-made Wall Street millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn’s collection of 20th-century painting and sculpture resides here. It is presented in ranges of media, works on paper, painting, installation, photography, sculpture, digital and video art. Everything about this museum is interesting. The second level features rotating exhibitions. Head up to the third-level for for house works from the permanent collection.
US Botanical Gardens
The conservatory displays 4,000 plants, all living in their respective environments. Some of the most unique things you’ll see are the dessert plants, and also an entire section dedicated to only orchids. The tropics hit closest to home since many of the plant-life looked familiar, being a Floridian.
National Gallery of Art
The National Gallery of Art probably the museum you need the most time for if you are an art lover. There are so many exhibitions and things to see, it’s ridiculous. There’s something from Italian Gothic works to Renaissance to modern drawings and prints. If you need a break throughout your viewing, there are a few quaint cafes to enjoy a coffee or gelato.
What I think of when I hear “National Art Gallery” is actually what takes place right next door all summer in their garden – Jazz in the Garden. From May 27 until September, every Friday after 5pm you will hear beautiful jazz being played by a local artist or band. The seats are covered, both on the lawn and around the fountain, because it draws such a huge crowd. Delicious sangria pitchers are served, too!
Once your brain is filled with wisdom and knowledge, it’s time to get a drink at Dupont Bar. This was our favorite place. It was our first of the Saturday night and we honestly wish we had just stayed the whole time!
Its ambiance is casual chic with dimmed lights and lots of space around the bar, or little tables to claim. I had one of the best drinks I’ve ever had there – champagne with lavender bitters. I’m not even one to obsess over bubbles but it was a [fancy] summer in a lavish glass. Start with the Mediterranean platter to munch while you soak in the DC environment. Baba ganoush, hummus, and an olive tapenade is the perfect combination to hold you over until its dinner time.
This bar in Dupont Circle brings me back to my summer days in DC. A restaurant by day and a bar by night, the Mad Hatter is a fun place to go with a bunch of friends to navigate your way to a table through the crowd and order a huge Mad Hatter hat filled to the brim with a delicious punch for all to share.
Need a late night snack before you Uber home? This place is pure joy. You walk up to the counter and either order one of their menu pizza selections, or build your own flatbread. It gets better – it’s only $9! In DC, that’s chump change. All for a delicious, personal pizza.
Day 3: Georgetown
As you will quickly see below, Georgetown is all about dining. The quaint breakfast places that are perfectly to people watch, cute cafes, and incredible bakeries, there’s nothing more a foodie could want! Georgetown is a must in terms of things to do in Washington, DC.
This is where you’ll find all of the shopping in Georgetown. You can spend an entire afternoon strolling up and down this street, splurging or window shopping. The buildings are all so beautiful, and are exactly what you envision Georgetown to be – posh and high-end. There’s an abundance of dining options, too.
Founding Farmers Brunch
I had anticipated Founding Farmers in Georgetown to be our big financial splurge of the weekend. However, I was pleasantly surprised when my meal was around $12! The prices were much lower than surrounding brunch spots in Georgetown, and the ambiance and food were fantastic. I do suggest making a reservation either on OpenTable or calling ahead. It’s quite a popular place on a Sunday morning!
Baked and Wired
I dream about this bakery. I am not even the slightest bit embarrassed to admit that I would frequent Baked and Wired 1-2 times a week when I lived in Georgetown. There is almost always a line out of the door (don’t worry – it must fast), and rightfully so. Their most renown item on the menu is their cupcakes. I really don’t think a more perfect one is out there. They have funky flavors, and lots of other fun treats, like coffee, pie, brownies, and more.
Just look at this! There’s a castle on this campus. P Street runs right into Georgetown University, and it is a lovely sight to see. There are few campus buildings more grand than this one.
What are your favorites things about spending a weekend in Washington, D.C.?
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