Let me start by saying that this was my second visit to the US nation’s capital DC and its surrounding area and I still wasn’t able to see it all. It’s just impossible to see everything and take it all in in just a few days. But tried I did.
There are of course the Must-Do’s on everyone’s list, like the US Capitol, the Washington Monument, the museums, the National Mall, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial to name a few but there is a whole different side of DC (and its surrounding area) and I had the pleasure to see and do a bit more then the last time I was in this wonderful city.
Let’s start with the obvious:
Walk the National Mall
Yes, there are tour busses, private tours and the ever so popular hop on-hop off busses but I found that walking is the best mode of transportation, especially when it comes to the National Mall. Get good walking shoes and avoid my pain. I had on my trusting Converse sneakers on and man, I was in pain at the end of the day. I looked cute though.
Start at the US Capitol and walk along the mall all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. Somehow after all that walking seeing good old Abe is sweeter than if you’d start your day here. It’s like you’ve made to the end of a very long journey.
On your way to the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial there are some really must-see museums. Animal person that I am, I chose to do a quick tour of the National History Museum.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial
I stumbled upon the Korean War Veterans Memorial on my way to the Tidal Basin from the Lincoln Memorial. Take a break here and really admire the sculptures of the soldiers and let it all sink in for a bit. It’s not only beautiful but also quite sad. The statues do a good job in reflecting the pain, fright and sorrow of these soldiers. This memorial is just south of the Reflecting Pool.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the Tidal Basin
This monumental memorial dedicated to the great Dr. King is, for a lack of better word, impressive. It is located between the Lincoln Memorial and the northwest corner of the Tidal Basin. Take the time to admire and reflect and take a stroll along the wall of Dr. King’s quotes.
After spending some time with Dr. King, take a walk along DC’s Tidal Basin, a partially man-made reservoir between the Potomac River and the Washington Channel and what was supposed to be the highlight of my trip because of the Cherry Blossom trees planted here. The Cherry trees bloomed a week before my arrival and sadly by the time I made it to the Tidal Basin there were almost none left, thanks mainly to the high winds the area experienced around the time of my arrival. Curses #@&%@! Bloom or no bloom the Tidal Basin was still well worth the visit.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arlington Cemetery
The Arlington Cemetery was a must on my list since I missed it on my first trip to DC. I was especially keen to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier now known as the Tomb of the Unknowns. It’s a monument dedicated to American service members who have died without their remains being identified. I particularly liked how these unknowns are watched over by Tomb Guards, soldiers of the US Army even in the harshest of weathers, like the blizzard a few months ago. It is soothing to know that these unknowns are never alone. Witnessing the change of the guard is a must and it happens every 30 minutes. While at Arlington Cemetery, pay your respects at JFK’s gravesite and the eternal flame as well as the Iwo Jima Memorial.
Explore DC by Metro
Walking is great but even with awesome walking shoes one can get tired. Luckily DC has one of the best Metro systems I have ever seen and it is super easy to use. Purchase your SmarTrip card for about $20 (this includes about $15 in rides) and upload more money at one of the many card machines as you go. Need help? There is always someone from the metro service available to answer questions, show you how to use the card or how to upload more money onto it and they are super friendly. There is a metro stop at almost all of DC’s most popular attractions like the Arlington Cemetery, the White House as well as the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Download their app for ultra convenience.
For an evening of laugh-till-you-pee-your-pants head out to DC Improv Comedy Club and Restaurant on Connecticut Ave. I was lucky enough to visit the club when none other than Clayton English, winner of Last Comic Standing was in the house. Hilarious does not do this dude justice. I have not laughed so hard in such a long while. The food is ok, nothing spectacular but then again you are not there for the food. The cocktails were on point though and I almost spit out my Cosmopolitan in my neighbor’s face. Warning: Don’t drink and laugh. The club is not big so get there early for good seats.
Etete Ethiopian Restaurant
It has become a tradition for my husband and I to eat at an Ethiopian restaurant wherever we visit. Little did I know that DC has one of the largest concentrations of Ethiopians in the US. So even though I was traveling by myself this time I just could not justify not eating at one of the many restaurants I’ve seen and Etete came highly recommended. Etete Ethiopian Cuisine is located on 9th street and U street, an area referred to by many as “Little Ethiopia”. The food is amazing, the people friendly and the overall atmosphere is great. Etete is definitely in my top 3 best Ethiopian restaurants I have tried around the world. It’s just too bad my husband wasn’t there to try it with me. Oh well, I guess I will just have to return to DC with him.
National Harbour, Maryland
Just South of Washington DC you will find the National Harbour, an ever growing waterfront development with lots of restaurants, shops, the Gaylord National Resort, a convention center and a Ferris Wheel. Drop by Alex and Ani for one of their beautiful pieces of jewelry, choose between Thai, Mexican or International for lunch and walk it all off on the dock. It was incredibly cold for an April day when I was there and sadly did not get to ride the ferris wheel. The National Harbour is a must visit….in warmer months when it hosts Cirque du Soleil, concerts, culinary festivals and the annual Beatles festival.
Shopping in Old Town, Alexandria
What a cute, charming and beautiful place. I fell in love with downtown Alexandria, the historic center known as Old Town. The many boutiques, the cobblestone streets, the dog friendly establishments and theaters, Old Town draws thousands of tourists every year. Discover this little preserved historic district on the Potomac by foot. King street is an easy walkable mile but you can take advantage of the free King street trolley. Hop into the Old Town Visitor Center on King street for information and directions. Old Town reminded me of Annapolis, Maryland and Nantucket, Massachusetts. Both are places close to my heart. I guess now Old Town is too.
U-street, 18th street, 19th street
I love street art and there is no better place to see most of DC’s spectacular murals than U-street, 18th street and 19th street. Look out for my “Chasing Murals: DC Edition” coming soon. The urban feel in this area is fantastic and the ethnic diversity is obvious. I try not to regret anything but this is definitely one area I wish I had more time to explore. I am at a loss for words so I’m going to let some pictures do the talking.
Thank you for reading this long blog post on my Must Do’s in DC and neighboring areas. I hope it was helpful to those of you planning a trip to this wonderful city and if you have already visited what would you recommend I see or do next time?
Live, Laugh, Travel.