I'll be honest, my first trip to DC was unexpected. We took a spur of the moment trip to visit family in Gaithersburg Maryland and thought, well, why not? We're here, right? That unexpected trip from sunny South Florida to the Maryland/DC area in the dead of winter was so unplanned that I didn't even have proper attire. Boy, was I cold! That trip turned out to be the first of many weekends to DC as it is now one of my all-time favorites.
Obviously, it takes more than a weekend to see and do all that DC has to offer but I am hoping that it also becomes a favorite for you as well and the first of many trips to DC! This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn some money if you click on one. Read the full disclaimer here.
First, let me start by saying that DC has exceptional transportation. In my many trips, I have utilized the cabs (which I won't use in most other areas), Uber, Metrorail, as well as Amtrak. I primarily use the Metrorail for sightseeing and use Uber when I go out for upscale dining. In my opinion, there is no need to rent a car in DC and I do not recommend it. By driving yourself, you will spend far too much time trying to navigate the streets of DC. The Washington DC 7 day Metro Pass is well worth the expense for Washington DC tours and attractions.
As far as where to stay, there are many options. I've stayed at the W Hotel, The Mayflower as well as a great Airbnb Row House in Dupont Circle. The Rosewood, a boutique hotel situated right on the historic C&O Canal, is next for me to try. While I loved the hotels, I tend to like the Airbnb (sign up now for a $40 credit you can use later!) for myself. There's more privacy, you select based on what you can afford, as well as looking at the photos to see what appeals to you. I also think Airbnb options are great for families since you can select the space needed and have the option to cook. Make sure that you check reviews. I've yet to have a bad experience but I have heard some stories that make me read every review.
After you've selected where to stay, you then need to consider how you want to spend your time. There are so many places to tour in Washington DC.
The National Museum of American History is a must see with the Star Spangled Banner – the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that is now our national anthem. The eclectic museum houses everything from the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz to a car from Disneyland's Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride to the Greensboro lunch counter.
The White House, a fascinating must-see for young and old alike is impressive but remember to arrange a tour by contacting your US Representative before your visit.
The National Gallery of Art should be on your list if you'd like to see esteemed works of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts and the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas.
Hop the Monuments at the National Mall to see the imposing and majestic markers of historical significance. If you think this will be boring, trust me and take the time and I am sure that you will have a different view of it after seeing them.
The National Air and Space Museum offers a look into our air and space history where you can view an IMAX movie, see the famed Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis plane, and see the 1903 Wright Flyer. There is plenty to see and do that will appeal to the whole family.
The National Museum of Natural History collections includes 30 million insects, 4.5 million plants preserved in the Museum’s herbarium, and 7 million fish stored in liquid-filled jars. From dinosaurs to diamonds to a 1,500-gallon aquarium, there are all sorts of fascinating exhibits to captivate all ages.
The National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the nation and the most famous resident is the giant pandas but is also home to birds, apes, big cats, Asian elephants, insects, amphibians, reptiles, aquatic animals, small mammals and many more. The success of the zoo's conservation and research programs are evident by such examples as golden lion tamarins, Sumatran tigers, and sarus cranes, who breed and raise their young here.
You may hear The National Archives and immediately think boring and cross it off your list. But do not discount this museum as it holds the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, along with one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta and the Emancipation Proclamation.
The International Spy Museum boasts the largest collection of espionage-related artifacts ever placed on public display. There's even a one-hour live action spy adventure for guests 12+.
Where To Eat In Washington DC
Washington DC is truly the culinary capital. There you can find just about anything you can think of from culinary masters.
Founding Farmers specializes in farm to table fare. The extensive menu includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Reservations are recommended and they do fill up.
Georgetown Cupcakes Home of TLC’s DC Cupcakes is famous for their cupcakes. I recommend not heading there with the kids as mine were not patient in the line.
1789 Restaurant is the quintessential Washington, D.C. dining experience steeped with American antiques, period equestrian and historical prints and Limoges china in a Federal-style house. Having been chosen by the readers of Gourmet magazine as one of “America's Top Tables” tells you just how delicious this is. I would be remiss had I not added this as it as this happens to be a favorite of mine but I suggest this more for a date night sans children.
Shake Shack has classic burgers, dogs, and shakes with several locations around the city. Very kid friendly.
Georgia Brown’s: For a great Southern Brunch, head over on Sunday and you'll also be entertained by live jazz here.
Tico is the place when you are in the mood for Spanish, Mexican, and Latin American inspired tapas style eatery with an extensive Tequila menu.
Jaleo is famous authentically Spanish cuisine and the sidewalk seating is the place to be seen in the bustling Penn Quarter.
Have you visited Washington DC? Did I miss anything? If I did, fill me in on the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!
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