Just got back from DC and man, I am exhausted. Every day it was 80+ degrees with humidity in the 40+ percentile. It was hot (and sweaty) but oh, so fun!
I went to DC to attend a conference so most of my daytime hours were spent at the conference. However, I had a few extra days there so that I could explore the city with my coworkers and meet up with my bestie. My honest opinion is that you could do Washington DC well in a long weekend (like 3-4 days, depending on travel). Here are some of my favorite things in DC that you may love too:
This is such a DUH moment but honestly I loved that ALL the Smithsonian museums are free! I tried to go to as many as I could squeeze into my trip. My favorites were the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Gallery of Art.
Pro tip: Go to the information desk and ask what they believe are “must see” things in the museum/gallery. It is a really easy way to figure out hidden gems and to get the most out of your limited time there.
I was shocked that this was so great and so empty! Everyone flocks to the Natural History Museum but, in my opinion, this one was way more interesting and unique to DC. From detailed pieces of our national history in regards to wars, past presidents, etc to cultural icons it was great. I took loads of pictures to share:
African American History & Culture
This museum requires tickets to get into but they have a stand by line on weekdays starting at 1pm. We got there about 12:30pm and thought we were never going to get in, but sure enough at one they opened it up and we walked right in. Per, now, routine, I immediately went to the front desk and asked what was the top things to see if one had limited time. To my surprise, the worker said, “everything!” My friend Tara and I chuckled but she was incredibly serious. So, we did just that and having seen it all I now better understand.
There are two sections: the historical and the cultural aspects. When we asked which to see first she said, “whichever you see less people going to..” (such awkward unhelpful help 😂). We started with the history. You first get off the one way elevator, like four floors below the ground, and you are herded into a small space with loads of people. You have no perspective of how large this museum is so you try to fight the crowd to see everything. But, as soon as you turn the corner you start to realize how large this museum really is. It is impossible to read everything and the museum knows it; they put signage in various places saying variations of the same thing so if you don’t read the detail card (because of the crowds) you still have an idea of what is happening. The historical section of the museum is a reverent place. Without being said, most recognize the need to stay off their phones and you find yourself speaking with hushed voices. It is humbling.
The cultural section is very uplifting. I personally loved the music icon section. In that area there is a room to the far left that plays music. I loved it! All the songs from my childhood were playing when I went in there (think Destiny’s Child and Mariah Carey to Biggie Smalls). It was great to see outfits from some of my favorite performers and see photos from their time. Everyone in these areas are laughing and having fun. It is invigorating.
Gallery of Art
One of the last museums/galleries I made it to was the National Gallery of Art. By this time, I had seen almost all of the museums in the National Mall, and was, quite frankly, museum’d out. Thus, I did what I have done at all museums and spoke with the information desk to see what they had seen as the most popular things to see at the Gallery, and was sent to some great Raphaels, Da Vincis, Van Goghs and more.But, having studied art, I knew what areas of art I loved and spent most of my time in the Impressionist era. In fact, my favorite room was the one with Claude Monet’s Houses of Parliament and light studies.
Essentially, you can’t go wrong at any of the museums along the National Mall. Plus, you have the added benefit of them all being free and open to the public! I loved learning and seeing some famous items from throughout history.
There is a lot of delicious eateries in DC. I did some research and asked friends who have lived there what they recommended and found/stumbled into some great places. Here are my favorite:
José Andrés' (a famous chef in DC) take on mediterranean food. Small plates and delicious. We sat outside and though humid it was fun. Expect a lot of waiting but the food was delicious.
I LOVE NANDOS! I thought they were only in England (and maybe surrounding countries), so you can imagine my surprise finding out there was multiple locations in the DC area. We ate there three times. It was so good. Plus, real authentic dole whip to accompany the amazing food.
Southern soul food that comes in great sizes. Tara and I ate here and, falsely, made the assumption that they would be very small sizes. Oh, how we were mistaken! The servings were quite large! I ordered a starter of the most amazing fried green tomatoes I have ever had. It was exquisite. I ordered fried chicken and a side of mac and cheese. I ate one piece of chicken, some of the mash potatoes that came with it, and some mac and cheese. It was filling and delicious!
We took zero photos because, well, we were so hungry and the food sizes shocked us that I forgot.
There is so much history in DC that it is very hard to see it all. My favorite places were the following:
The Lincoln Memorial
There is a level of reverence here as, it seems, people from all over the world and in all types of life hold President Lincoln in high regard. Our hotel was closest to this landmark so I visited this space often. In the morning it is less crowded and a lovely spot to sit and recollect. The views are lovely from here and during the day you can see the ducks and geese in the reflection pool.
The MLK Memorial
Truly breathtaking. Martin Luther King Jr. carved out of stone. It is massive and beautifully constructed.
Highly recommend catching the changing of the guard, I believe they change every half hour on the half. It is humbling to remember all those who fought and, often, died for our freedom. Also buried there are President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy. Next to their graves stands the eternal flame. The cemetery is a sight to see. If you go in the summer, note that it is extremely humid and hot. Please don’t forget water and to take time to be in the shade so that you don’t pass out in this reverent place.
There are so many great things to see. I personally loved these places the most. Included in the gallery are some photos of other locations I loved in addition to the ones previously mentioned.
All in all it was a great trip! I was there for An Event Apart, a conference for work, but made the most of my nights and time in DC to see all that I could. Highly recommend anyone go for a long weekend and come prepared to walk a lot and see a lot of museums! Let me know if you end up going or have been to any of the places I recommended.