Three of my best friends from college were in DC this past weekend to visit me. I was so excited they were coming that I mulled over the itinerary for weeks. When they asked me what we were going to do I said eating, drinking, and walking! I had a list of 30+ restaurants and activities I wanted to try to fit into four days. Knowing that was going to be impossible, I picked some favorites based on where we were going to be in the city.
I wanted to share with you all the things we did and a few additional recommendations I have if you are planning a trip to the DC area. I didn’t bring my big camera around with me because I wanted to focus on spending quality time with my friends, so you’ll just have to excuse the iPhone photos.
We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Palomar in Dupont Circle, and it was a great location for us. I loved the modern vibe of the hotel, and of course that big black and white art above the bed!
Our room was HUGE and we could easily spread out 4 suitcases worth of stuff around the room and still have plenty or room to hang out. There was also a giant floor length mirror and another mirror with a table under it, both with outlets nearby — very helpful for four ladies all trying to get ready at the same time.
They also have thoughtful things in the room like yoga mats so you can get your stretch on and a free wine hour…that’s my kind of hotel. Plus we didn’t hear a peep from any other guests, our room was silent, which is really important to me because I’m a light sleeper.
Highly recommend the Hotel Palomar if you are coming to DC. Plus it’s just a few blocks from the Dupont Metro station and only about 12 blocks from the White House and the National Mall.
There is so much to see and do in DC, I love being a tourist in my own city!
The best way to see the White House and the Capitol is to get a private tour. Now, if you really like learning all the things, you can get an official tour at the Capitol, or you can contact the office of a member of Congress for your state and request a tour of the Capitol and/or the White House (you can literally just look up the office and call them). Usually the interns will give you a shorter tour with a smaller group of the Capitol building. So if that sounds more like your jam, I recommend it. The regular tours are large groups.
If you actually know someone that works at the Capitol, just get ahold of them and they can recommend what they think is best or take you on a tour themselves. I’ve been several times, and luckily have passionate friends with special access and lots of knowledge that have shown me around. I even got to take my friends to the actual Hall of the House of Representatives, which is hard to get in to.
The White House can be harder to get a tour of, but is worth trying for. I recommend doing it several weeks/months in advance to get an East Wing tour. To get a West Wing tour, you have to actually know someone who works there that will personally take you on a tour after hours (which I’ve luckily gotten to experience!). But I highly recommend trying to get in on a tour of the East Wing, and follow the instructions you are given.
If you can’t get on a White House tour, you can always walk by and take photos from Pennsylvania Ave. or get a view of the South Lawn.
With the main two buildings out of the way, now we can chat about other buildings worth your time. Personally I think the Library of Congress is gorgeous. It’s very colorful inside. You can go in (you have to go through security first) and just do a quick walk around, or take your time, take a tour, and go into all the rooms and read about everything. At the least it’s worth a quick 15 minute walk around.
Next to the Library of Congress is the Supreme Court. Again, you can take a tour if you want, or you can just go in, walk around on your own time, and peek your head in to see the actual courtroom.
This is my best secret for seeing the main monuments on the National Mall — go at NIGHT. Specifically to the Lincoln and the Jefferson. Not only are they lit up beautifully, but it’s usually cooler at night, and there are much less people there than during the day.
My friends and I asked someone to take this photo of us sitting on the left side of the Lincoln if you are facing the Washington Monument, and you can see the Washington Monument, its reflection in the reflecting pool, and the Capitol building just to the left of the Washington Monument. It’s a gorgeous view at night.
Of course you can go during the day as well, or do the other monuments during the day, but the Lincoln and Jefferson at night are an amazing experience, better than going during the day in my opinion.
Sit down, chat, and just be. Be with whomever you are there with, enjoy the beauty of the architecture, feel the energy of Washington DC. Take some photos, and then just be present.
I was actually bummed because we didn’t have time to go to the National Gallery of Art on this trip (I personally walk through about once a month!) but that just gives my friends another reason to come back and see me.
The National Gallery of Art is one building, then there is the newly reopened East Wing, which you MUST see. And make sure you give it several hours because you need to see every inch of it. There’s a Rothko room, a Barbara Kruger room, a Calder room, and a Matisse room (which is only open during certain hours, so check if you really want to see it), and so much more amazing art. You’ll also want to make sure you walk through the sculpture garden, or if you are there on a Friday night in the summer you can go to Jazz in the Garden.
There are so many art museums and galleries to see in DC, but for art I also recommend the National Portrait Gallery, the Renwick Gallery, The Phillips Collection, the Hirshhorn, and Georgetown has a ton of amazing local art galleries.
And now we talk about food and drinks!
On this trip, I took my friends to the following spots:
Le Diplomate — The seafood tower is fun for a group, but everything is amazing at the popular French spot. This restaurant will NOT disappoint. Make a reservation in advance!
All Purpose — A new pizza place in the Shaw neighborhood that is delicious!
South Block — Had to work in my favorite smoothie place for some healthy greens to balance out all the wine and cheese!
Compass Rose — Mostly because I am obsessed with the Khachapuri but also because it’s a delicious local spot.
The Dabney — Due to Michelin Star they just received, reservations are a must, but being a local, I knew we could probably get in late on a Thursday at the bar for a drink and dessert. We still had to wait 20 minutes just to get a spot at the bar, but it was worth it.
The Yard at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown — The Yard is a new outdoor space at the Ritz in Georgetown with a fun bottomless drink menu for brunch.
Hummingbird — We spent one night in Old Town Alexandria to change it up, and ate on the patio at this new spot. The have a huge patio on the water. I haven’t tried enough from the menu yet for any sort of review, but my husband loved the burger and I thought the Ham & Cheese was not only tiny but also underwhelming. Won’t stop me from trying it again.
Cork Wine Bar — A great spot on 14th street to grab wine or brunch. If you are there for brunch, get the cinnamon roll.
The Evening Star Cafe — This is a gem of a spot in the Virginia neighborhood of Del Ray. Outdoor and indoor seating, and a menu that you will have a really hard time choosing what to get — and it’s all delicious.
Boulangerie Christophe — A new spot in Georgetown to get coffee and a pastry.
POV at the W Hotel — This is more for the view than anything. If you go into the lobby of the W Hotel, get in the elevator and go to the roof to POV or Point of View where you will have a view of the White House and the Washington Memorial. Great place to grab a drink during sunset and see the view during the day and night! If you’re lucky, you might even get to see Marine One (the President’s helicopter) land and take off from the South Lawn of the White House!
Whaley’s Rosé Garden — A lovely new place in Navy Yard to get a glass of rosé. It’s tiny and cute and totally worth it.
There are tons of amazing restaurants in DC, this is just a sample of where I took my girlfriends on this specific trip!
Ice Cream gets its own section because I love ice cream. I didn’t have time to take my friends to all of the ice cream spots, but these are some of my favorites around the city:
Jeni’s Ice Cream — This ice cream place just opened on 14th Street and the ice cream is INSANE. You can try 3 flavors in one bowl so we got to try A LOT of flavors and share (photo above).
Milk Bar — I’m so glad there is a Milk Bar in DC! Honestly, the cereal milk soft serve is unreal. I thought I wouldn’t like it because cereal milk grosses me out, but I LOVE IT. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had before and I constantly crave it.
Ice Cream Jubilee — Another local spot for delicious and creative ice cream flavors.
The Dairy Godmother — In the Del Ray suburb, this is hands down the best Wisconsin-style custard I’ve found in the DC area.
There are a few keys to having the best time in DC while on a Girls’ Trip (or on a trip with anyone!):
+ Stay somewhere that’s easy to get to where you are wanting to go. Either within walking distance, on a metro stop, or a short cab/Uber ride. DC traffic is real, and you don’t want it taking over your precious time.
+ Be present. Take pictures, but then put your camera/phone away and really soak up what you are looking at, experiencing, doing. There’s a lot of history in DC that you literally can’t see anywhere else. Immerse yourself in it.
+ Map out what you want to do and try to figure out the timing of things and the restaurants that you want to go to based on where you are going to be. There is too much good food in DC to waste one meal on something crappy just because you are hangry. Always keep a granola bar or something in your purse for those moments to tide you over to your next amazing meal.
+ Make reservations at restaurants. Or odds are, you won’t be able to get in for two hours if at all if it’s a good place during a normal meal time. But a tip is to go early — most Washingtonians don’t eat dinner until 7 pm at the earliest. 8-9 pm is more common, so you will have an easier time getting into a good restaurant if you go early. Also, a lot of restaurants are NOT open for lunch, just FYI.
+ Check the schedules of the museums and sights you want to see. See if there’s anything you want to go to at the Kennedy Center, and make sure to get tickets to the African American Museum in advance.
+ Wear sunscreen and drink a lot of water.
+ Don’t try to do too much. Lines and traffic might put a kink in your plans so just alter your expectations. You can always come back again!
+ Don’t wait until the last minute to get a hotel room. Hotels sell out all the time in DC.
+ Wear comfortable shoes! Unless you literally cab/Uber everywhere the entire trip, you will be walking a lot.
+ Fly into Reagan (DCA) if at all possible. The Metro doesn’t go to Dulles yet and it’s a $65+ cab ride (and can take well over an hour) to get into DC proper from Dulles.
Big thanks to Hotel Palomar for hosting us!
Images of Hotel Palomar from their website.