(Last updated: March 2015) Adam and I often get the question from friends and family, "What should I do and see while visiting DC?". The answer: There is a lot to do! And it is nearly impossible to see it all in just one weekend. Adam and I have lived here almost four years and we’re still checking items off our lists. The positive, there is something for everyone: foodies, history buffs, families, fitness nuts and fashionistas. And while we certainly don't claim to be DC experts (the Washingtonian's Visitors Guide has got us beat there) below are some of our favorites, both touristy and local alike.
1. Can't Miss Monuments
The Washington Monument (go to the top if you can), the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial are DC's crown jewels. If you haven't see them previously they are a must see for any DC visit. Some of our other favorites include the World War II and FDR Memorials.
While the memorials are great during the day—many are even better at night (and less crowded). Another fun way to see them is by segway tour. I've done this several times and it's a blast. It's a fast and fun way to cover a lot of ground and see the monuments up close and personal. City Segway and Capital Segway are both fantastic and have several tours to choose from.
2. Pandas, Pandas, Pandas!
The National Zoo is one of mine and Adam's favorite DC spots. Plus, did I mention they have Pandas (and it's free)! The Zoo is a quick metro ride from downtown and a nice break from the museums. And if you're in DC around Christmas, be sure to check out the Holiday Zoo Lights. (Tip: take the metro to Cleveland Park, instead of Adams Morgan. The walk to the Zoo will be downhill and less crowded.)
3. DC Eats
Where to start. There is no shortage of fabulous places to eat, drink and brunch in DC. Below is a running list of some of our favorites around the city and that we often recommend to visitors.
Firehook: Cleveland Park
Ella's Wood Fired Pizza: Chinatown
Le Diplomate: Dani's favorite // 14th Street
Farmers Fishers and Bakers: Best brunch, come hungry! // Georgetown Waterfront
Founding Farmers: Foggy Bottom
Old Ebbitt Grill: Known for it's excellent cocktails, oysters and brunch. // Penn Quarter
The Hamilton: Downtown
Boquiera: Order the seasonal sagria and patatas bravas! // Dupont
Ben's Chilli Bowl: U Street
Open City, National Cathedral: The perfect spot for a cup of tea or quick bite after touring the National Cathedral // Cathedral Heights
Martin's Tavern: Great history, great food. // Georgetown
Shake Shack: Chinatown, Dupont
Ted's Bulletin: Eastern Market and 14th St.
We, the Pizza: Capitol Hill
Little Serow: Dupont
Churchkey: McPherson Square
Surfside: Glover Park
2Amys: famed Neapolitan Pizzeria // NW DC
4. Paddle the Potomac
One of mine Adam's favorite ways to see the city is from the Potomac. The Key Bridge Boathouse offers canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals. We haven't done this, but hear watching the 4th of July fireworks from the water is awesome. (tip: book early).
5. Take me out to the Ball Game
Although better know for politics than professional sports, DC has quite the vibrant sports scene. One of Adam's favorites (though biased) is Major League Soccer's DC United. The team plays at historic RFK Stadium in SE DC. Cheering on the black and red is certainly a fun way to spend the afternoon. My favorite: MLB's Washington Nationals. More specifically, the Racing Presidents! If soccer and baseball aren't for you, DC also has professional football, hockey, basketball, and tennis in addition to a host of college teams.
6. Jazz in the Sculpture Garden
Every Friday night in the summer, enjoy free jazz concerts in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner or enjoy snacks and sangria from the Pavilion Café. The Sculpture Garden is also a fun place to relax, and dip your feet, after a day of museum hopping and site seeing. (Constitution Ave. between Seventh and Ninth Sts., NW)
7. And all the rest...
Below are some other must-do items to check off your Washington, DC list.
- Explore historic Georgetown (good shopping).
- Tour the White House, Capitol Building (advanced reservations required).
- See a show at the 9:30 Club.
- See Dorothy's ruby slippers (National Museum of American History) and the Hope Diamond (National History Museum).
- Have a drink on the roof of the W Hotel.
- Check out the Kennedy Center—there are free concerts every day at 6:00 p.m.
- Love cupcakes? DC has you covered. Georgetown Cupcake and Baked & Wired are some of our favorites.
- Visit the National Portrait Gallery—and be sure to stop at the Kogod Courtyard.
- Rent a bike. There are Capital Bikeshares available all over the city.
- National Archives—worth seeing if you have time.
- The National Cathedral. It's such a treat to live just down the street from the nation's second-largest cathedral. If you have time I'd definitely recommend visiting and touring the surrounding gardens.
- 4th of July: Our favorite spot to watch the fireworks is from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. There are lots and lots and lots people doing the same thing, be prepared for big crowds, and THE best fireworks display you've ever seen.
- Cherry Blossom Festival. It's magical and certainly not to be missed if you're here in early-mid April.