Insider tips: Explore Washington DC like a local
Megan & Aram is a travel blog that focuses mostly on travel in the Nordics and Eastern Europe with the occasional trip beyond those regions. We love coffee, promoting small businesses, and sports.
What should I do on my first trip to Washington DC?
While there are seemingly endless fantastic things to do in Washington, DC, some must-sees include the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Capitol Building. You'll see most of them on a stroll along the National Mall — the grand centerpiece of America's capital. Check out one (or several) of the Smithsonian museums, like the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, or the National Museum of American History.
What are some hidden gems to see in Washington DC?
If you want to escape the city for a moment of tranquility, head to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. The big showstopper here is the beautiful lotus flowers that bloom in summer. Some of the less-visited of the 20 or so Smithsonian museums are great to visit too, like the National Postal Museum. It might be niche, but it's a very fun, interactive museum to explore.
How much time should I spend in Washington DC?
Three to five days is a good length of time to see the main sights of DC and fit in a few of the hidden gems, but you could easily spend a week or more exploring the many great things DC has to offer. Less than three days and you’ll only be able to hit just a few top attractions, though you’ll still get a feel for the city.
What food is Washington DC known for?
Washington, DC's diverse demographic mean it's got a great food scene with loads of options. DC is known for its “half-smoke,” a type of hot dog that is half pork, half beef, and smoked and served on a warm bun with chili and onions. Grab one at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark restaurant serving half-smokes since 1958. Pupusas, stuffed flatbreads with El Salvador origins, are also extremely popular in the city.
What is the best way to get around Washington DC?
Many of the top attractions are within walking distance from each other, so getting around DC is a breeze for most. Want to go a bit faster but still have the flexibility to take a detour when something catches your eye? The city’s bike share program is easy to use. There's also an accessible bus and metro system to take you around the city and surrounding areas. Renting a car or taking a taxi can be a hindrance due to heavy traffic and difficulty parking, so avoid it if you can.
What are the best months to visit Washington DC?
Fall is a perfect time to go to Washington, DC, as the weather is very pleasant and the crowds are fewer. Spring is lovely as well, especially because of the famous cherry blossoms which attract hoards of people. Summer can be hot and humid, and it's the peak tourist season, so if you're not a fan of that combination it isn't the best time to go. In winter, things tend to be less expensive and less crowded, but it can be freezing and some attractions may close.
What are the best neighborhoods to visit in Washington DC?
Georgetown is a quaint neighborhood that’s been around since Colonial times. Wander along the bustling cobblestone streets lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and take a breather in Georgetown Waterfront Park. Shaw is a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood with great nightlife, live music, art, and shopping. You can also take the metro to Old Town Alexandria, VA, just south of DC. This beautiful riverside neighborhood has small-town vibes and a big character with fantastic boutiques, antique stores, and ice cream parlors.
What are the best neighborhoods for food?
The ethnic diversity of Columbia Heights is reflected in its fantastic restaurants. Whether you want to eat Laotian, Ethiopian, Louisiana Creole, or many other cuisines, you’ll find something to satisfy your cravings. H Street has the largest selection of restaurants, from vegan cafes to Michelin-starred institutions. Trendy Shaw is a hotspot for foodies, with tons of buzzy new restaurants in a small radius.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
Georgetown has a chic mix of high-end boutiques, indie shops, antique shops, art galleries, and international retailers. For a full range of options, head to CityCenterDC, a large outdoor shopping mall with shops, cafes, and restaurants. If you’re looking for a great market, Union Market has more than 40 vendors, food, and live music to enjoy.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Washington DC?
One of DC’s most popular neighborhoods, Dupont Circle has it all: shopping, food, farmers markets, nightlife, and galleries. Its metro station easily connects you to other neighborhoods. Stay near the National Mall if you want to be close to the monuments and museums and like to be in bed early (there's no nightlife nearby). You could also consider Arlington or Alexandria, both in Virginia. These charming cities are both within easy reach of the capital and among some of the best day trips from Washington, DC.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Washington DC?
There are tons of great family-friendly things to do in Washington, DC — kids will never be bored! Kid-friendly museums, such as the National Museum of Natural History or the International Spy Museum, abound. Nature lovers will adore the Botanical Gardens, especially its Children’s Garden (with free activities) and the Butterfly Garden. Watching a Washington Nationals baseball game is also an exciting activity for kids and adults alike.
What is the best thing to do in Washington DC for solo travelers?
One of the greatest joys of solo travel is going at your own pace. This is maximized in DC, where you have many fascinating museum options and the freedom to spend as long as you like at whichever one strikes your fancy. A sightseeing walking tour or a food tour with a local guide are also great ways to see the city if you still want some company. A tour allows you to learn some of the city’s history, get insider tips, sample some amazing dishes, and meet other travelers.
What is the best thing to do in Washington DC for couples?
There are so many great date ideas for you and your partner in Washington, DC, from museum hopping and monument tours to to romantic restaurants and biking around beautiful parks and along the Potomac River. Take some time to visit the gorgeous Hillwood Estate in the northwest part of DC, full of Russian and French art, luxurious rooms, and a lovely 13-acre garden. In the evening, check out some of the nightlife in DC. Grab a drink at a pub or wine bar before heading to one of the city's great jazz clubs.
What are the best annual events in Washington DC?
One of the most famous events in Washington, DC, is the Cherry Blossom Festival, which happens at the end of March or the beginning of April (depending on the year’s weather). This gorgeous season swathes the Tidal Basin in pink, and the two-week festival is full of events including a kite festival and a Japanese street fair. The 4th of July Independence Day Festival is big in DC too — it is the country’s capital. Enjoy a great concert before the enormous fireworks show over the National Mall.
What are the best things to do around Washington DC?
If you want to escape the busy city for a quiet moment, head to Rock Creek Park or Theodore Roosevelt Island. These two areas offer miles of trails and green space within the city. A little further away, Great Falls Park is 800 acres of lush parkland, hiking trails, waterfalls, and rushing rapids that will delight your senses.