How has it taken me this long to write about Washington, D.C? Considering the fact that I lived in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area for 3 years, I should have written about this a long time ago, but better late than never, right? So you are planning your first weekend trip to Washington, D.C, the nation’s capital but feeling clueless about where to begin? Keep on reading for my weekend travel guide to Washington, D.C.
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ABOUT WASHINGTON, D.C
Okay, we know D.C. is the capital of the United States of America, and D.C. stands for District of Columbia. (It’s okay if you didn’t know, no judgement). D.C. borders the states of Maryland and Virginia, it’s like one min you are in Maryland, then you cross the road and you are in D.C.
The city obviously has a lot of historical significance, it has seen it’s ups and downs over the last few decades, but if you were talk to a local, they will tell you that there is no other place in the world like D.C. The diverse culture, the stunning architecture, the history behind everything, the crazy traffic, the flood of tourists from all over the world, the politics, brunch scene, and so much more! I can go and go with the list but I’d rather have you experience it first hand. You can also checkout the Washington tourism site here.
So what can you expect while you are there? Well, one lots of traffic. I do not recommend driving around, trust me, you will go nuts! Rush hours in D.C. are from 6:00 AM- 10 AM, then 3 PM- 7 PM. Commuters are usually pouring in from Maryland and Virginia area since a lot of them do work Federal jobs, but are smart enough to live out of D.C. Having said that, the public transportation system is amazing! Hands down one of my favorites and easy to understand as compared to the madness in New York city or Paris. You can also use Uber/Lyft for shorter commutes, however, keep in mind the peak hours, rates go up astronomically during those times.
D.C. is considered a very walkable city, no matter what you are looking for, you can either walk/bike or use public transportation which includes buses, and the underground metro system. You probably won’t find any giant grocery stores like Walmart, due to limited spacing, but Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, etc. can be found in several neighborhoods.
As far as weather is concerned, depending on what time of the year you go, it is mostly cold, well except the summer months. It’s cold in autumn, winter, and spring. The crazy part about spring is, it can either snow or get real hot and humid, real quick.
PRO TIP: Read my complete transportation guide on D.C. here. It includes everything you need to know on how to use the metro train system.
WHAT TO DO
There is SO MUCH to do in D.C., one weekend is not going to be enough. Trust me when I say I lived there for 3 years and still did not get to explore everything. If you feel you didn’t see enough (which is literally impossible), the states of Virginia and Maryland are right next door and offer tons more things to do and see.
Let’s start with D.C tho. So first things first, there is always something going on in the capital. Whether it is a festival, march, or any other major event. D.C. also has an amazing brunch scene, you will find every local out for brunch on the weekend, literally. In addition, there is so much to see and explore, and guess what, a lot of it is FREE! Here are a few of my favorite things that can’t be missed during weekend trip to D.C.
- Visit the monuments and memorials– Washington Monument, Arlington Cemetery, WWII Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, the list goes on, there are several monuments built in D.C. Click here to find a list of all the monuments & memorials built in D.C.
- Smithsonian Museums– The Smithsonian consists of 20 museums and galleries as well as the National zoo, you can visit these 7 days a week, and the best part, all for free! Most of the museums are located near each other, or a couple of blocks away from each other. Here is a list of all the museums, and other information such as the hours of operations. Click here.
- Library of Congress– This one deserves special attention, even if you are not planning to read, just go in and have a photoshoot. Yea, I said it, the architecture is stunning in every corner plus you can actually read if you would like to.
- Sports games– A great way to experience D.C. like the locals and have the best time of your life during your first visit is by attending one of the games. Whether you are a football, baseball, ice hockey, or soccer fan, there is an exciting and entertaining game for you! I attended my first ice hockey game, watching the Capitals play and the ambiance was simply so electric. Click here to find out more about D.C’s sport scene.
- Explore the local neighborhoods– Another great way to spend your time in D.C. is by exploring one of the many stunning neighborhood there. Whether you are visiting Georgetown or Massachusetts Avenue, you will come across the unique food scene which you won’t find anywhere else in the nation.
- Washington National Cathedral– Located on Wisconsin Avenue, the National Cathedral is the second largest in the U.S. A great way to enjoy a peaceful and quiet morning during your trip.
- Weekend farmers markets– Another great way to mingle with the locals, check out a local farmers market. Several locations have them, and mostly on the weekends. Click here for one on Dupont Circle.
- Union Market– This was one of my favorite places to be on my days off, in addition to walking around the National Mall. You can expect the best international foods, live music, local shops and much more!
- U Street festivities– The part of the city that never sleeps. This block stays up late and knows how to have fun! They throw the BEST block parties! What more? Okay, so…great music and nightlife scene, jazz clubs all over, amazing food such as Ben’s Chilli Bowl (lines are usually pretty long), coffee shops, Ethopian and Italian foods, etc. the list goes on. So you get the idea, don’t miss out on U Street.
- Great Falls National Park– Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a bit? Then head to Great Falls. About 20 miles from D.C., this national park is perfect for a day outdoors whether that be for a hike or just enjoying the views of the waterfalls. Admission tickets are about $15 per vehicle.
WHERE TO STAY
This is going to be a tough one! There are literally hundreds of hotels/Airbnbs you can stay at, but to avoid driving you nuts, I am going to recommend couple of different neighborhoods and then my favorite hotels/airbnbs there.
My top 3 neighborhoods in D.C. are Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Foggy Bottom. The best way to experience the magic of these neighborhoods is by staying like a local, at an Airbnb. Each neighborhood has a unique character to it, unlike any other around. Having said that, D.C. also has some of the best hotels in the world. These hotels are famous for housing everyone including international diplomats, movie stars, etc.
If you are new to Airbnb, click here to join and receive a $40 credit towards your first trip. Free money!
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington, DC– $210 per night- Kimpton group of hotels is known for their luxurious decor and top class customer service. Kimpton Monaco is no exception to this, the interiors have a very royal look to them.
- The Madison Washington DC– $160 per night- a posh 4 star Hilton hotel offering refined rooms, with city view, plus an elegant lounge bar.
- Beacon Hotel & Corporate Quarters– $127 per night- An excellent option for those who mean business.
- Gaylord National– $260 per night- I love this little area by the National Wharf, several restaurants, bars, and shops in the area, or you can take a boat ride out.
- Hyatt Place Arlignton– $137 per night- Great alternative if you are looking to stay outside of D.C.. Located in Arlington, VA, the hotel is only a few metro stops away from the nation’s capital and gives you a chance to explore the beautiful state of Virginia.
- Dupont Circle Embassy Inn– $100 per night- You are going to love this neighborhood! Has many local bars, restaurants, cafes all in walking distance.
- Clifford’s Inn for 2 people- $60 per night- Excellent option for 2 people, love the interiors, and has everything you need for your trip, just like home.
- Newly renovated condo for 2 people- $88 per night- Located only 3 metro stops from the National Mall, great for solo travelers or couples.
- Houcine’s two bedroom apt. for 4 people- $113 per night- Great for a family or friends.
- Joseph’s 4 bedroom with rooftop deck for 10 people- $180 per night- Amazing place for a group, bachelorette or family trip. Lots of space and conveniently located.
The first time I went to D.C., I fell in love with the city so much that I decided to move there. Having lived there for over 3 years, I still felt like a tourist whenever I went to explore something new and trust me, I am still not done. Having said that, my biggest advice for your first visit is to pick and choose. You won’t be able to explore everything during your visit but you want to make the best of it with an all rounded experience. So I recommend picking a couple of museums, 1 or 2 memorial, atleast one neighborhood to explore and lots of different food places.
I highly recommend everyone visit D.C., especially if you are in the Northeast region. D.C. is only 4 hours away from New York City.
I’d love to chat with you more on D.C. especially if you are in the midst of planning your trip there. Comment below.
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