Moon Washington DC
Neighborhood Walks, Historic Highlights, Beloved Local Spots
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- Navigate the Neighborhoods: Follow one of our guided neighborhood walks through the National Mall, Dupont Circle, U Street, and more
- Explore the City: Snap the perfect photo of the Washington Monument, stand where MLK delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. Walk the halls of Frederick Douglass’s home, journey through the incredible Smithsonian museums, or tour the U.S. Capitol from dome to crypt. Paddleboat along the Potomac during cherry blossom season and shop the boutiques in Georgetown
- Get a Taste of DC: Chow down on a late-night half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl or grab brunch and a new book from Busboys and Poets. Dig into diverse, authentic fare from Ethiopia, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and more, savor Michelin-starred seafood at a waterfront restaurant, or order up a Chesapeake crab cake at a neighborhood joint
- Bars and Nightlife: Watch a groundbreaking performance at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, catch a live band at the 9:30 Club, or dance to a DJ set at the Black Cat. Sip scotch where former presidents once did, try a five-course cocktail tasting menu, or kick back with a beer and fries at a quintessential DC dive bar
- Local Advice: DC journalist Samantha Sault shares her love of the nation’s capital
- Strategic, Flexible Itineraries including the three-day best of DC, four days with kids, and day trips to Alexandria, Annapolis and Easton, and Shenandoah National Park
- Tips for Travelers including where to stay and how to navigate the Metro, plus advice for international visitors, LGBTQ+ travelers, seniors, travelers with disabilities, and families
- Maps and Tools like background information on the history and culture of DC, full-color photos, color-coded neighborhood maps, and an easy-to-read foldout map to use on the go
DISCOVER WASHINGTON DC
Oh, you’re from Washington DC? It’s changed so much. It’s gotten so cool.
This common trope is pushed by residents, those who’ve come and gone and everyone whose kid interned on Capitol Hill, by media and Hollywood and glossy travel magazines and the Michelin Guide. Waxing poetic about the newest starred fusion restaurant where you can’t get a reservation, or off-the-beaten-path gallery in a “redeveloped” neighborhood far from the tourist drags, is a sign you’re a tastemaker, that you’re in the know.
It misses the point—and it’s not true.
To say new, slick, high-tech concert venues and galleries and museums have made Washington DC a cultural center brushes aside the capital’s rich history as a center of black theater and jazz before Harlem and Motown, of performance halls and parks and churches that have witnessed world-changing events. And sure, there are more restaurants now, but Washington’s always had a unique flavor, a blend of soul food and Ethiopian and sizzling Chesapeake Bay seafood served in the backrooms of classic steakhouses where history was made over martinis. And yes, celebrity chefs and slick shopping developments and scores of social media influencers have brought revenue and new visitors, but they’ll never, ever be as influential as former residents like Frederick Douglass, Duke Ellington, Toni Morrison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marvin Gaye, Langston Hughes, Katharine Graham, and José Andrés.
Never mind the intoxicating political intrigue, which has drawn so many to the capital, and enticed them to stay, not because they don’t want to live anywhere else, but because they truly can’t imagine a life without that pulse.
Yes, Washington’s changed so much—it changes every four years. But it’s always been cool, in its own way. And no matter which way the political winds blow, it always will be.
10 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Stroll the National Mall: Get up close and personal with monuments—and see if you can spot the tiniest monument on the National Mall.
2 Walk the Halls of Power: Ask your Member of Congress for a tour of the U.S. Capitol Building.
3 Experience the Magnitude of the Washington Monument: Visit the tallest structure in the city then ride the elevator to the top.
4 See the Lincoln Memorial at Night: After the crowds have dispersed, the interior monument light casts a dramatic glow on the Great Emancipator.
5 Admire the Cherry Blossoms: Spring in DC means an explosion of cherry blossoms. Brave the crowds at the Tidal Basin to rent a paddleboat during the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
6 Take a Memorable Selfie: Make your friends jealous with a photo outside the White House.
7 Walk in the Footsteps of Frederick Douglass: Visit the historic site of one of the country’s most important abolitionists, where he lived during the end of his life.
8 Visit the Smithsonian Institution Museums and Galleries: Find the Star-Spangled Banner, the Hope Diamond, Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac, and a real lunar module at the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and galleries.
9 Pay Your Respects at Arlington National Cemetery: Visit the Tomb of the Unknown Solider and JFK’s gravesite.
10 Become a Washington Insider: Partake in happy hour in a Capitol Hill pub or a posh cocktail bar—and keep your ears open for political gossip.
EXPLORE WASHINGTON DC
THE BEST OF WASHINGTON DC
History, politics, power—and the world’s best free museums. To experience the best of Washington DC in a few days, stay downtown in a hotel like Penn Quarter’s Hotel Monaco, a short walk or just a few Metro stops away from the halls of power and the best restaurants and nightlife. You don’t need a car; everything in this itinerary is accessible by Metro, a taxi or ride-share, or walking.
DAY 1: DOWNTOWN, PENN QUARTER, AND CAPITOL HILL
Start your day at Pete’s Diner, one block from the U.S. Capitol. You’ll be joined by Hill staffers and perhaps a few lawmakers; former Speaker of the House John Boehner famously had eggs and coffee here almost every day.
Public Transit: To get from downtown/Penn Quarter to the U.S. Capitol, take the Metro Blue, Orange, or Silver Line from Metro Center to Capitol South.
Head west on Independence Avenue SE to the U.S. Capitol. You can explore the grounds and see the imposing dome from every angle; get a spectacular up-close selfie on the west side. No matter how many times you’ve seen photos—or passed by on your way to work—it’s always awe-inspiring. If you’d like a tour, reserve one in advance via the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center or through your member of Congress; same-day passes are sometimes available at the information desk on the visitor center’s lower level, but don’t count on it. The visitor center has public exhibits about the Capitol and Congress, as well as a gift shop.
Across from the visitor center entrance on 1st Street, get a glimpse of the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court of the United States. If you did not take a Capitol tour, you’ll have time before lunch to pop inside the United States Botanic Garden, a hidden gem on the Capitol grounds full of thousands upon thousands of plant specimens from around the world.
For lunch, go to Eastern Market on 7th Street SE between C Street NE and North Carolina Avenue SE, 15 minutes from the Capitol by foot. The crab cake at Market Lunch, the casual counter inside the main market building, is one of the best in DC, but if you prefer finer dining, try Acqua Al 2 across the street. On the weekend, people-watch and shop for local, DC-inspired artwork at the outdoor market; on weekdays, drop by Bullfeathers back at 1st Street and D Street for happy hour and political gossip.
Public Transit: To get from Eastern Market to downtown/Penn Quarter, take the Metro Blue, Orange, or Silver Line from Eastern Market to Metro Center.
Celebrate your first night in the city with the seafood tower at Old Ebbitt Grill. Before you sit down, however, detour one block past the restaurant to see the White House and Lafayette Square during the golden hour. End with a nightcap at the historic Round Robin Bar at the Willard InterContinental.
DAY 2: NATIONAL MALL
If you have tickets to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, grab coffee at Compass Coffee on 7th and F Streets NW, then beeline to the museum to be in line a few minutes before your entry time. You’ll need the better part of a day to see everything, but it’s worth it; start in the basement and work your way up, then have lunch at Sweet Home Café before the pop culture exhibits.
Public Transit: To get from downtown/Penn Quarter to the National Mall, simply walk south on 7th Street or 9th Street to Constitution Avenue. It’s 10-20 minutes by foot to the major museums.
If you didn’t get tickets, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and National Air and Space Museum are the other must-see museums. If you try to do both, don’t miss the Star-Spangled Banner and first ladies’ dresses at the former and, of course, the spaceships at the latter. Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the National Museum of the American Indian is a good option for lunch.
You can stay in the museums if you have foul weather, but otherwise, explore the memorials on the National Mall. Follow the walking tour to hit the Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Memorial, and Tidal Basin.
Public Transit: To get from the memorials on the southwest side of the Mall back to downtown/Penn Quarter, take the Metro Green or Yellow Line from L’Enfant Plaza to Gallery Pl-Chinatown.
Relax before a late dinner at Jaleo, the José Andrés Spanish restaurant that ignited the nation’s tapas obsession. After, grab a taxi or ride-share to the Lincoln Memorial, which absolutely must be seen at night.
DAY 3: NATIONAL MALL, U STREET, AND SHAW
Start the day at the National Gallery of Art. If you didn’t have breakfast, grab coffee and a pastry in the Pavilion Café in the Sculpture Garden. There’s something for every art lover here: Choose the West Building for the French Impressionists and Da Vinci’s only painting on view in the United States, or the East Building for modern art.
When you get hungry, head to CityCenterDC, where you can parse the works over leisurely brunch or lunch at Centrolina or DBGB Kitchen & Bar, or grab a healthy juice at Fruitive. Enjoy an afternoon of window shopping the luxury stores, or walk about 15 minutes south to the National Archives Museum to see the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution in a new light.
Public Transit: To get from downtown/Penn Quarter to U Street/Shaw, take the Metro Green or Yellow Line from Gallery Place-Chinatown to U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo, or grab a taxi/ride-share.
Spend the evening in U Street and Shaw, DC’s nightlife hub, bustling with trendy restaurants, cocktail and wine bars, and dance clubs. This is the neighborhood to try Ethiopian food—the Washington area has the largest Ethiopian population in the United States, and restaurants here include Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant and the more upscale Chercher. For the definitive DC nightlife experience, catch a show at the 9:30 Club, followed by a late-night half-smoke (a spicy half-pork/half-beef sausage, served on a bun and smothered in chili) at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl.
THE CITY WITH KIDS
Washington DC is a wonderful city to visit with children, with a plethora of interactive museums and easy-to-use public transportation. And parents won’t feel like they’re missing out, because the top museums and attractions for kids are among the top museums and attractions in the city, period.
There are lots of family-friendly hotels, but two stand out. Steps from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the Metro Red Line, the Omni Shoreham Hotel is a quiet hideaway with an outdoor pool and children’s amenities; if you want to be closer to the National Mall, the Mandarin Oriental is a surprisingly kid-friendly choice, with a peaceful spa for tired parents.
Whether you have dinosaur-loving toddlers or hard-to-please teens, the museums and memorials are sure to wow the entire family. Head to Union Station for breakfast at one of the many quick-serve restaurants, then pick up the DC Ducks tour out front to see the major sights, including the Washington Monument, White House, and Thomas Jefferson Memorial by land and water. The 90-minute tour will take you back to Union Station, from where you can walk to the National Mall by heading southeast on Louisiana Avenue past the U.S. Capitol and Reflecting Pool, or catch the DC Circulator.
Public Transit: The Metro Red Line goes directly to Union Station, where you can walk to the National Mall and Capitol Hill. The DC Circulator National Mall route goes from Union Station to the National Mall; take the bus in the direction of Lincoln Memorial.
The National Museum of Natural History is a good choice no matter your kids’ interests, with dinosaurs, mummies, and sparkling gems, as is the National Air and Space Museum, with amazing aircraft and spacecraft. When hunger pangs strike, skip McDonald’s at the latter; the Natural History Museum has a standard food court, with burgers, pizza, and barbecue, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try Mitsitam Native Foods Café at the National Museum of the American Indian. Food trucks often cluster on Constitution Avenue around 15th Street and 17th Street. Round out the day in another museum, or head to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, a kid favorite with larger-than-life statues and waterfalls.
Public Transit: To get from the National Mall to Capitol Hill, take the Metro Blue, Orange, or Silver Line from Smithsonian to Capitol South. If you’re closer to the FDR Memorial, you can catch the DC Circulator National Mall route from the Lincoln Memorial toward Union Station four stops to Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, then transfer to Metro.
After a long day of sightseeing, have a casual dinner at Good Stuff Eatery or We, the Pizza on Capitol Hill, serving inexpensive, tasty, kid-approved food with local, farm-raised ingredients (and adult beverages for you). You can walk by the U.S. Capitol illuminated in the evening before turning in.
After breakfast at your hotel, head to The White House. You can get a good look, and teach your kids a lesson about the freedom of assembly, from Lafayette Square, where you may see (calm, peaceful) protesters on any given day. The White House Visitor Center is open to the public daily, though more suitable for older children.
Public Transit: The Metro stations closest to the White House are Farragut West and McPherson Square, serving the Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines; you can transfer from the Red Line at Metro Center or walk from Farragut North.
A few blocks away, you’ll find several good lunch options, including the bustling Old Ebbitt Grill, which has an expansive menu that will satisfy even picky eaters, or Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, a fast-casual spot for yummy fried treats. After lunch, visit the highly interactive International Spy Museum, which has lots of flashy, fun exhibits about free speech and major news events, or take older children to learn about the past at the National Archives Museum or the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. If you’re visiting during the holiday season, the magical production of A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre will appeal to children of all ages, and children at heart.
For dinner, the energetic Jaleo is a good restaurant to introduce the family to tapas, especially if you can get one of the glass-topped foosball tables; after all, pan con tomate (grilled bread with tomato), patatas bravas (fried potatoes), and croquetas de pollo (chicken croquettes) are Spanish riffs on kid palate pleasers, and parents can kick back with refreshing gin and tonics or a pitcher of sangria in the famous hot spot.
Start your day in Upper Northwest at Open City, which serves breakfast all day, plus sandwiches, salads, pizza, and a full bar in a casual, family-filled diner. From there, it’s a half-mile, 10-minute walk up Connecticut Avenue to the main entrance of Smithsonian’s National Zoo. There’s tons to explore: the great ape house, grand cats, and lots of indigenous American beasts, like bald eagles and chipper California sea lions. The zoo has a train and carousel, as well.
Public Transit: The Metro stations closest to the zoo are Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and Cleveland Park, serving the Red Line. The main entrance is about the same distance from both stations, but it’s an uphill walk from the former and a flat walk from the latter.
After relaxing at your hotel, get a taxi or ride-share to Cathedral Heights to see if you can find the Darth Vader gargoyle at the Washington National Cathedral, before enjoying D.O.C.-certified pizza at family favorite 2 Amys, one of the city’s best pizza joints.
If time permits, the day trip to George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, is a fantastic family outing, no car required, where you can learn about Washington and how he lived. When visiting with children, don’t miss the farm and the 4-D film about life during the American Revolution; the estate frequently hosts story hours and special holiday events.
The best route from DC is by boat; you can take the Spirit of Washington river cruise from the Southwest Waterfront directly to Mount Vernon from March to October. It’s also reachable by car/taxi or public transportation (see the Day Trips chapter for details). Detour through Old Town Alexandria on the way back to DC for dinner on the waterfront.
Whether you have a pet issue you want to discuss, or simply want to say hello, you, too, can play lobbyist for a day and visit your member of Congress. Afterward, see the city like the VIPs do.
If you want to say hello to your senator or representative, visit their website to get the office location and hours; some host weekly or monthly meet-and-greets for constituents, while others explicitly welcome you to drop by when you’re in Washington. Regardless, Senate and House office buildings are open to the public, and anyone, including international visitors, is free to visit even without an appointment, though there’s no guarantee the representative will be available.
If you have a specific issue or bill you want to discuss, contact the office to see if you can arrange a 15-minute meeting with the member or relevant staffer. If you get a meeting, here are some tips from the pro lobbyists: First, make a clear “ask”—such as how you want them to vote on a bill. If possible, bring a one-page document or other materials with facts to make your case. You may get a vague answer, but follow up with a thank you note. And keep in mind House representatives will be easier to meet than, say, a senator or someone in a leadership position.
If you contact the office in advance, they can arrange a U.S. Capitol tour led by an intern, as well as tours of the White House, Pentagon, and other major sights.
- On Sale
- Nov 17, 2020
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Moon Travel