As those of you who follow me on Facebook know, I took a little hiatus after the holidays. During that time I took a trip to Washington, D.C. for New Years. It was amazing. I’d been to DC quite a few times as a child, because my grandparents lived in northern Virginia, but it is so much different and more impressive as an adult. If you live in the U.S. or are taking a trip here, you should 100% make a trip to DC! Without further ado, here’s what I did and my best recommendations.
The National Mall
There is literally so much to see in Washington, DC. Some of the most iconic views are found along the National Mall. Stretching from the Capitol building to the Lincoln Memorial, you’ll find so many major locations here. You’ll see the Capitol, the Smithsonians, the White House, the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial the WWII Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial. You can go around the Tidal Basin and see the FDR Memorial and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial as well.
They are all so impressive, it’s hard to say which is my favorite. I mean the Washington Monument is actually massive. It literally made us dizzy to look up at it. The Lincoln Memorial is also incredibly huge, and the ambiance within it is truly something special. I think what I was most impressed by was the Vietnam Memorial. There was so much symbolism and thought put into it, it’s really something spectacular to see, and really makes you think about the price of war.
The Mall itself is very walkable-it’s just under 2 miles from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial. It sounds like it’d take awhile. In truth, you basically go to these things, snap a few photos and move on, so there’s not a whole lot of time suck going on here. You could do the whole walk in a few hours. Keep in mind that this is a very busy area, with lots of people, so bring along your patience and graciousness!
I remember going to the Smithsonians as a child, and loving it. As an adult, they are equally as fun, and perhaps even more interesting. My two favorite are the Natural History Museum and the Air and Space Museum. The Natural History Museum houses (probably) thousands of taxidermied animal species, some extinct. It’s pretty impressive to see a giant elephant right when you walk in. They also have gemstones (including the Hope Diamond), insects, and a live butterfly garden. It’s definitely the more kid-friendly of the two.
The Air & Space Museum really impressed me though. I wasn’t expecting to like it was much as I did. It houses tons of airplanes, from very rudimentary to war planes. You can even take a photo with the Hubble Space Telescope and make yourself feel really, really small. Pro tip: There is a Air & Space hangar at Dulles International Airport that houses the Enola Gay, which dropped the atom bombs. If you have time to see it (we didn’t), definitely do so.
Crumbs & Whiskers
Of course being the crazy cat lady that I am, I had to find the cat cafe in DC. Located in Georgetown (an area you should definitely check out), Crumbs & Whiskers is the cutest little place there ever was. Also, cats. So many cats. They had about eighteen furry felines running around, and it was literally a dream. They were all so friendly and cuddly. The best part is, if you bond with a cat and want to take him/her home, you can adopt your new friend! I highly, highly recommend this place. All of the staff was really nice, and are so knowledgeable about each and every cat. Bonus, you get a cute little Polaroid to commemorate your time there! While they do accept walk-ins, I highly recommend making a reservation. They were fully booked during my 75 minute session, so booking in advance is the way to go!
Remembering Fallen Heroes
If you want to be sobered, and see something truly meaningful, head to Arlington National Cemetery. Technically located in Arlington, Virginia, the cemetery is just across the river from the Lincoln Memorial. Massive isn’t even a large enough word to describe the cemetery. It seems endless, like it could go on and on forever. While you’re there, go to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and watch the changing of the guard. Occurring every hour, on the hour, these dedicated soldiers fulfill this ritual with impeccable precision.
At Arlington, you can also pay respects at the grave of JFK and Jackie O, and witness the Eternal Flame. If you have someone buried in Arlington, definitely look them up before trying to find them. There are kiosks in the welcome pavilion where you can type in their name and it’ll tell you exactly where to find them. We found the grave of my great grandfather and great great grandfather that way. From the cemetery you can peep the Pentagon (don’t try to get in, you’re not allowed-something about National Security?). If you walk up to Arlington House you’ll get a fantastic view of DC. Though not necessarily a fun thing to do, I definitely recommend going.
History Come to Life
Our final stop was The National Archives.You may notice I don’t have any pictures from inside the building- that’s because you’re absolutely not allowed to take photos of anything. A blogger’s nightmare, amirite? Nevertheless, definitely go to this site. Here you’ll find original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. For preservation reasons, you’re not permitted to snap any photos, but it is actually amazing and very humbling to see the documents up close. The Archives house many other very cool things, from speeches, to immigration forms, to deeds of land, etc. Plan at least 2 hours to be here. Pro tip: the entrance is not in the front, with all the banners, you’ll have to walk around the left side to enter the Archives.
Other Notable Places
I’ve touched on Georgetown, but really it is so flippin’ cute. The houses are adorable, and there’s several cute bakeries to check out. Also stop by Chinatown, and snap a pic of the Friendship Gate. There’s tons of great bars and restaurants in this area, and the biggest Walgreens you’ll ever see. I’ll get more into the food scene in my next post. The Smithsonian Sculpture Park is also pretty cool and very quick to go through!
Things to Know About DC
- The best way to get around, in my opinion is by Metro. Don’t buy the multiple day passes, just get a Smartrip card and reload it when you need to. You can get to most places for under $4. DC is also very walkable, so getting the Metro to a central location and walking from there is your best bet.
- DC is pretty expensive, but also not. Most of the attractions are free, but eating out and drinking is pretty pricey.
- Location, location, location. Hotels are not cheap in DC, but staying in Arlington or across the river can be a pain in the butt. We stayed in an Air BnB in Capitol Hill and it was worth it, for sure. It was so easy to get back every night, and the mini-apartment we had was absolutely amazing. Highly recommend Steve & Aimee if you’re going to visit!
- Reagan National is the most convenient airport to fly into, however Dulles isn’t bad either. Reagan has a Metro stop built into the airport, whereas Dulles has a $5 shuttle to and from the Metro stop. Dulles is about 1 hour outside the city, depending on traffic, Reagan is maybe 30 minutes. If you have the choice, Reagan is probably more cost and time efficient, but Dulles is totally do-able as well.
- Don’t take Ubers in the city if you don’t have to. We took one to Georgetown because it seemed like the most convenient way to get there, but the driver took us the longest way possible and charged us way too much. If that happens, definitely report it to Uber, and you’ll get your money refunded. Or just take the Metro and walk it.
- DC is so cold in winter. Also, really hot in summer. Definitely check the weather before you go, because my Floridian self was not ready. Bring a jacket, fo sho.
Washington, DC is such an incredible city, I could go on and on about it. There’s so much to do, so much to see, it’s really very impressive. Have you been to DC? What are your favorite places to visit/most impressive sights? Let me know in the comments below! As always, thanks for reading & stay golden!