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What to do in Washington DC

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Albee, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. Albee

    Albee New Member

    This Canadian is going to Washington DC and needs some advice from the folks. So EXCITED:biggrinbo

    My questions are: Where to stay that is reasonable with somewhat good access to the sites?

    Where to eat that is not fancy but good and well priced?

    What to see as I'm on a time crunch (only passing through) I will arrive on weekday at 11am and be leaving by 1 or 2pm the next day for the 14 hour trip back home. So that gives me one afternoon and evening - and the next morning to explore.

    I know I can't tour the white house but I can see the outside, I heard the capital is good for a visit and I want to see Arlington Cemetery. Is there any point to the Washington Mall (?) I also heard Georgetown is a good visit? Do I drive there? Take a trolley? Lots to figure out.

    All advice and help would be appreciated.
  2. judiz

    judiz Well-Known Member

    The Smithsonian (on the mall) has many fine museums to choose from depending on your interests, I definitely recommend you try to get to at least one museum. We stayed at a courtyard by Marriott three years ago but I can't remember the exact street address.
  3. Reuven

    Reuven Official FSU Alte Kacher

    The Mall from the Washington Monument to the Capitol is lined on both sides by the museums of the Smithsonian, and all are free, and most have cafes/restaurants. Perhaps some FSU DC Denizens can chime in about eateries and hotels?
  4. Vagabond

    Vagabond Well-Known Member

    But you can!


    In addition to museums, the famous monuments and memorials are all set on, along, or near the Mall. The Lincoln and the Vietnam War Memorials are must-sees. The ones for Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt (both along the Tidal Basin) are also worth seeing. The Washington Monument is closed for repairs. The World War II Memorial, set right in the middle of the Mall, is .... regrettable, to say the least. It could have been designed by Albert Speer. :scream:
  5. Albee

    Albee New Member

    Wheeee, I sent a note to my MP here, and my friends who are stationed in Virginia Beach with NATO. We are visiting there first. Hoping somehow I can get in.

    The Mall sounds like everything is in one place! Excellent.

    Anyone know anything about Georgetown?
  6. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

  7. Bailey_

    Bailey_ Guest

    This Canadian just visited DC. We stayed at the Key Bridge Marriott -- relatively inexpensive, easy metro access, near Georgetown. I would recommend the hotel.

    We spent almost a whole day walking to see Arlington Cemetery and the Mall. Arlington Cemetery was beautiful. You need to walk the mall to see the Lincoln memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capital. We did the Capital tour -- that is a whole morning. It's very interesting. My favorite museums were the Smithsonian American History Museum and the National Holocaust Museum. But again, you spend several hours in both (particularly the Holocaust Museum).

    Have fun!
  8. wickedwitch

    wickedwitch Well-Known Member

    The White House is beyond dull. There are dozens of more interesting things to do.

    My personal favorite is the Air and Space Museum.
  9. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Yes and :cheer2: Air and Space :cheer2:

    Every time I go to DC I promise myself I'll go to [pick from giant list of museuems], and every time, I go back.
  10. Garden Kitty

    Garden Kitty Tranquillo

    Given your limited time, I'd skip Arlington and try to see the mall and the monuments particularly Lincoln and the Viet Nam Veterans memorial. If you have the time to tour the Capitol, great, otherwise I'd just walk around and see the outside of that and the White House. Just getting the feel of a city is the most fun thing for me when I have limited time.

    There are so many museums, and you don't have the time to see them all. So check out the Smithsonian website and the National Gallery of Art and see if any of them particularly appeal to you. I remember as a kid I loved the exhibit with the dresses from the First Ladies, but my dad loved the Spirit of St Louis. Don't overwhelm yourself trying to see everything.

    It sounds sappy, but I still get excited when I go to DC and am just driving around to get somewhere and all of a sudden I see some landmark of American history.
  11. Albee

    Albee New Member

    Great! Thanks so much.

    Sounds like walking the mall and seeing the different museums and Georgetown at night for dinner? Then perhaps get in line for a capital tour in the am? Anyone know how early you have to get there?
  12. smurfy

    smurfy Well-Known Member

    Agree with previous posts. I also did a night bus tour to all the monuments. It was really pleasant and great to see the monuments at night all lit up. The tour stopped at many of the monuments and went to Arlington Cemetery as well.
  13. 4skating

    4skating Member

    I lived in WDC for 17 years and hosted many visitors. They all were impressed by seeing the major sites at night, when depending on when you will be visiting, it may be more comfortable to be outside. The Tourmobile is no more, apparently, but Old Town Trolley has night tours that start at 7:30 pm and hit the major sites.

    The Smithsonian Museums and National Gallery of Art on the Mall are free and you can walk between them easily. I'd look at the descriptions online and decide which interest you. The Big Three (Air & Space, Natural History and American History) are open until 7:30 pm during the summer, which is a bonus.

    I'd skip Georgetown because it's primarily retail that you can find elsewhere and residential. Arlington Cemetery is impressive and you could go there the morning before you leave. It opens at 8 am and is Metro accessible.

    I wish that I could make recommendations on hotels/food but it's been awhile since I was there. The Washington Post website might have some food suggestions and you could always try Chowhound or Yelp. Again, I don't know when you will be in DC, but weekend hotel rates tend to be cheaper--maybe look for deals on Priceline?

    Hope that you enjoy my former hometown...it really is special and I highly recommend it for visitors!
  14. BlueRidge

    BlueRidge AYS's snark-sponge

    There are museums everywhere. With the short amount of time you have, I would say concentrate on the things that are unique to Washington, D.C.

    My opinion, as one who has lived here virtually my whole life, is take the tour of the Capitol, it is the single most moving and impressive place in D.C. If you can do the tour of the White House, yes also do that. I wouldn't necessarily recommend Arlington Cemetary to everyone, but since you expressed an interest, it is definitely worth the trip. And if you go there and come back across Memorial Bridge you get a sensational view of the Lincoln Memorial (which is also worth visiting).

    I recommend Dupont Circle for the evening over Georgetown.
  15. Albee

    Albee New Member

    Hope that you enjoy my former hometown...it really is special and I highly recommend it for visitors!
    I just can not wait, we are going the first week of September during the week. We arriving late Wednesday night around 9pm, and staying until later afternoon Friday in order to get a head start on our journey back to the Buffalo boarder.

    My opinion, as one who has lived here virtually my whole life, is take the tour of the Capitol, it is the single most moving and impressive place in D.C. If you can do the tour of the White House, yes also do that. I wouldn't necessarily recommend Arlington Cemetery to everyone, but since you expressed an interest, it is definitely worth the trip. And if you go there and come back across Memorial Bridge you get a sensational view of the Lincoln Memorial (which is also worth visiting).
    I really want to see the monuments at night now, and Arlington Cemetery I think is important. Along with the some sites at the Mall. I would be good if I can get into the capitol Friday am as my last item. Still trying to figure what time I have to line by in order to get in.

    I recommend Dupont Circle for the evening over Georgetown. 
    Perhaps a hotel in Georgetown would take care of seeing that part of town and eating there.

    I can't thank you all enough for your help, I've never been, nor have I been to my first stop that week, Virginia Beach. Can't wait
  16. Ajax

    Ajax Well-Known Member

    The Air and Space museum was my favorite of all the museums. I also loved the national history museum and the spy museum.
    I second the recommendation to save the Mall for the evening. Not only are the monuments beautiful all lit up but DC gets really, really hot during the day and it could be torture to be walking outside. So I'd suggest going to a (nicely air-conditioned! :D) museum in the late afternoon, break for dinner, then walk around the Mall after sunset.
    If you have the time, the Adams Morgan neighborhood is really fun at night with tons of bars, ethnic restaurants etc. I'd skip Georgetown, there's not really anything of interest and most of it is just chain retail stores.
    My parents are diplomats so I really enjoyed strolling along Embassy Row and seeing all the beautiful mansions representing all the different countries. It's a gorgeous neighborhood (much more interesting than Georgetown for sure!) but probably not something that would be of interest to that many people.
  17. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka

    Bug spray/ wipe is really useful before heading to the monuments at night.
  18. cailuj365

    cailuj365 Well-Known Member

    Georgetown is a very pretty (and wealthy) neighborhood. It's not very accessible by Metro though. The easiest and cheapest way to get there is to take the DC Circulator bus from Dupont Circle. Fare is $1, but it's even cheaper if you're transferring from other modes of public transit. I agree with the others that it's not the best way to spend your time if you only have a day or so.

    Since you have a short amount of time, I recommend doing a bus tour of the monuments and picking maybe two museums that interest you the most. The Smithsonians are nice since they're all free, but your enjoyment of them will vary with your individual interests. One of my favorite museums is the Newseum. Admission is pricey at $20/person, but the exhibits are awesome. The 9/11 and Berlin Wall exhibits were particularly impressive and moving. The Holocaust Museum is great too, but be prepared to bring some tissues.

    As for dining, Founding Farmers is a great place with hearty, yummy meals that isn't too fancy or expensive. Busboys and Poets is good too. For brunch/lunch, I like Madhatter because of the Alice in Wonderland decor. For late night, Kramerbooks Cafe in Dupont is fun because they have a live band playing. If you want to spend a little more money, I recommend Jaleo, which is a great tapas restaurant.

    Enjoy DC!
  19. Skaterx

    Skaterx New Member

    Another vote for the air-conditioned museums in the daytime and a monument tour at night. The metro is fairly user friendly but remember to stand to the RIGHT and walk to the left on escalators (major Washingtonian pet peeve). Busboys and Poets has fabulous vegetarian food and nice cocktails. Another place for a fun lunch is Ben's Chili Bowl (outstanding chili dogs and chili burgers). Have fun and bring patience and water. DC in the summer is unbearably hot and humid.
  20. skateycat

    skateycat Minecraft Widow

    I recommend eating at the Mitsitam Cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian. It's delicious and it just won some big award for the casual dining experience out of all of the Washington DC restaurants. And the museum's pretty cool too.
  21. skateycat

    skateycat Minecraft Widow

    The last time I was there, I had this huge combo plate with salmon and all kinds of side dishes. And a Mexican hot chocolate and oh my gosh I waddled out of there!
  22. taf2002

    taf2002 zexy demon

    We stayed at the Carlyle Suites Hotel last year & thought it was very reasonable. It's very close to Dupont Circle which is near all the embassies. It was nice having a full kitchen (separate room), sitting area, & a dressing table & stool.


    For the monuments we hired a taxi driver to take us around to all the monuments, Embassy Row, & Arlington. It took a couple of hours but it was well worth it. He got us as near to each monument as he could & waited for us, cutting down on the walking we had to do. It costs somewhere between $80 to $100, I can't remember exactly. Just get a driver who speaks good English. Ours was like a tour guide.

    We needed to be carried around like that because we were worn out from the Smithsonians. My favs were the Amer History and the Air & Space. We only got to 5 or 6 museums so we really need to go back.
  23. Marge_Simpson

    Marge_Simpson Well-Known Member

    I second that suggestion, the food is really nice and I can personally vouch for the tres leches cake. :) If you look through the previous threads you'll see my other restaurant recommendations, it seems as if all I did in DC was stuff my face!
    I stayed at the Hotel Rouge last year and highly recommend it. Website here:

    I had such a good time in DC I am considering going back again soon, either in October or November.
    (Note to self: do I want to see the Kirov Ballet, Washington Ballet, or San Francisco Ballet? :lol:)
  24. PRlady

    PRlady flipflack

    Welcome! (Belatedly.)

    Here are a few of my favorite, not-expensive restaurants:

    Masa 14 -- Latin/Asian fusion, on 14th Street between trendy Logan Circle and U Street neighborhoods. Go early or make a reservation on Open Table.

    Policy -- also tapas, same neighborhood.

    Rasika -- really good Indian, one's on Capitol Hill, the other near Dupont Circle.

    Three a little more upscale: Brasserie Beck downtown (Belgian); Corduroy (Euro/near Convention Center right on Metro); and The Source (Asian/fusion next to Newseum.)

    And it's a little touristy, but a lot of people like to do the dinner cruise on one of the boats that cruises down the Potomac at night. Lovely views and in September, the weather gets more bearable.
  25. manhn

    manhn Well-Known Member

    This Canadian is thinking of making DC my next Great American Trip For 2013 (also in the running: Chicago, Minneapolis). I don't want to jinx it, but I was thinking of going during the upcoming Inauguration. Never been, so I would like to go during a time of history (regardless of outcome). I know it'll be insane, but I have family there, so I won't need to worry about hotels at the very least.

    But how insane is it?
  26. acraven

    acraven Well-Known Member


    I really enjoyed my visit to Rasika during last summer's Restaurant Week, but I wouldn't call its location (633 D St NW) "Capitol Hill". It's near 7th St and Pennsylvania Ave in what's now called "Penn Quarter". There are other interesting restaurants strung out along 7th St NW north of Pennsylvania. I also like Oyamel for Mexican food (definitely not your typical burrito joint) and Teaism (Asian-inspired, on 8th St just north of Pennsylvania).

    For a quick mid-day meal near the White House and the Renwick Gallery (crafts), I like the Bread Line on Pennsylvania between 17th and 18th Sts NW. It's similar to Au Bon Pain in price but with (I think) more interesting selections. It's an order-at-the-counter place serving sandwiches, individual-size pizzas, salads, and soups. It can be a mob scene during the peak lunch period, but the lines move very fast.

    I'm not a political animal and have managed to ignore the inaugural festivities for almost 40 years. I think you'd be fine if you didn't have to find an affordable hotel. However, you can't count on good weather in January.